The crux of the age:

The palace of King Charles.

Cromwell was a farmer.


Note the contrast between this period and the Renaissance as seen by Donne:

The element of fire is quite put out, the air is but water rarefied. The earth is found to move, and is no more the center of the universe. Stars are not fixed, but swim in space, comets are mounted above the planets, some affirm there is another world of mean and sensitive creatures with cities and palaces in the moon; the sun is lost, for it is but a light made of the conjunction of many shining bodes together...[it] has spots; thus science by the diverse motions of this globe of the brain of man are become opinions, nay errors, and leave the imagination in a thousand labyrinths. What is all we know compared with what we know not?

We must discover the reasons for the changes Donne described. Use his quote, the outline below, the print bibliography, the textbook and the on-line resources to answer the following:

1. How is the 17th century most like the preceding period, and how different? Note that nominalism and realism will be identified now from an epistemological perspective--their names will thus change.

2. What happened to social, political, literary and moral values in this period?

3. What kind of thinking characterized this period? (The mind / matter dualism become very important.) Examine the excerpts from the philosophers printed below.

4. Why did epistemology become more important than metaphysics? What are the ethical implications?

5. What was happening scientifically especially regarding the nature of induction and deduction?

6. What now is the meaning of NATURE?

7. Note the excerpts from Luther, Galileo, Hobbes, Locke, Descartes, and Bacon carefully, noting what the mind can and cannot do, especially in terms of moral philosophy. What major change has occurred from previous literary periods?

8. Justify whether this period is reflectionist or reconstructionist. (Define the terms.)



Abrams, M.A. (ed.). The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 5th edition. Volume One. N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Co., 1986..

Brinton, Crane. The Shaping of the Modern Mind. N.Y.: Mentor Books, 1953.

Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind. N.Y.: Ballantine Books, 1991.



I. Politics: 1603-1660

II. Royal authority: Elizabeth Tudor (1558-1603) and the Stuarts (1603-1649) absolute monarchy

On The Motion Of The Heart And Blood In Animals, 1628 (Translation by: Robert Willis)

Harvey’s Letter To The King And Dedication

To The Most Illustrious And Indomitable Prince Charles King Of Great Britain, France, And Ireland Defender Of The Faith

Most Illustrious Prince!

The heart of animals is the foundation of their life, the sovereign of everything within them, the sun of their microcosm, that upon which all growth depends, from which all power proceeds. The King, in like manner, is the foundation of his kingdom, the sun of the world around him, the heart of the republic, the fountain whence all power, all grace doth flow. What I have here written of the motions of the heart I am the more emboldened to present to your Majesty, according to the custom of the present age, because almost all things human are done after human examples, and many things in a King are after the pattern of the heart. The knowledge of his heart, therefore, will not be useless to a Prince, as embracing a kind of Divine example of his functions, - and it has still been usual with men to compare small things with great. Here, at all events, best of Princes, placed as you are on the pinnacle of human affairs, you may at once contemplate the prime mover in the body of man, and the emblem of your own sovereign power. Accept therefore, with your wonted clemency, I most humbly beseech you, illustrious Prince, this, my new Treatise on the Heart; you, who are yourself the new light of this age, and indeed its very heart; a Prince abounding in virtue and in grace, and to whom we gladly refer all the blessings which England enjoys, all the pleasure we have in our lives.

Your Majesty's most devoted servant, William Harvey. / London, 1628.

Dedication To His Very Dear Friend, Doctor Argent, The Excellent And Accomplished President Of The Royal College Of Physicians, And To Other Learned Physicians, His Most Esteemed Colleagues.

I have already and repeatedly presented you, my learned friends, with my new views of the motion and function of the heart, in my anatomical lectures; but having now for more than nine years confirmed these views by multiplied demonstrations in your presence, illustrated them by arguments, and freed them from the objections of the most learned and skillful anatomists, I at length yield to the requests, I might say entreaties, of many, and here present them for general consideration in this treatise.

But even as they see that the credulous and vain are disposed at the first blush to accept and believe everything that is proposed to them, so do they observe that the dull and unintellectual are indisposed to see what lies before their eyes, and even deny the light of the noonday sun. They teach us in our course of philosophy to sedulously avoid the fables of the poets and the fancies of the vulgar, as the false conclusions of the skeptics. And then the studious and good and true, never suffer their minds to be warped by the passions of hatred and envy, which unfit men duly to weigh the arguments that are advanced in behalf of truth, or to appreciate the proposition that is even fairly demonstrated. Neither do they think it unworthy of them to change their opinion if truth and undoubted demonstration require them to do so. They do not esteem it discreditable to desert error, though sanctioned by the highest antiquity, for they know full well that to err, to be deceived, is human; that many things are discovered by accident and that many may be learned indifferently from any quarter, by an old man from a youth, by a person of understanding from one of inferior capacity.

My dear colleagues, I had no purpose to swell this treatise into a large volume by quoting the names and writings of anatomists, or to make a parade of the strength of my memory, the extent of my reading, and the amount of my pains; because I profess both to learn and to teach anatomy, not from books but from dissections; not from the positions of philosophers but from the fabric of nature; and then because I do not think it right or proper to strive to take from the ancients any honor that is their due, no yet to dispute with the moderns, and enter into controversy with those who have excelled in anatomy and been my teachers. I would not charge with willful falsehood any one who was sincerely anxious for truth, nor lay it to any one's door as a crime that he had fallen into error. I avow myself the partisan of truth alone; and I can indeed say that I have used all my endeavours, bestowed all my pains on an attempt to produce something that should be agreeable to the good, profitable to the learned, and useful to letters.

Farewell, most worthy Doctors, And think kindly of your Anatomist, William Harvey.

Disputation Against Scholastic Theology (1517)

"As a matter of fact, without the grace of God, the will produces an act that is perverse and evil...We do not become righteous by doing righteous deeds but, having been made righteous, we do righteous deeds...No one can become a theologian unless he becomes one without Aristotle...No syllogistic form is valid when applied to divine terms...The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased, but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone."

Speech Before Emperor Charles (Diet of Worms, 1521)

"For no one can deny or conceal this fact, when the experience of all and the complaints of everyone witness that through the decrees of the pope and the doctrines of men, the consciences of the faithful have most miserably entangled, tortured, and torn to pieces. ...I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen."

Click here for the Ninety-Five Theses

Click here for more primary source references and study guides for Luther

III. Philosophical implications:

IV. Currents of philosophical thought

Mind - Body Dualism (Meditation VI)

To commence this examination accordingly, I here remark, in the first place, that there is a vast difference between mind and body, in respect that body, from its nature, is always divisible, and that mind is entirely indivisible. For in truth, when I consider the mind, that is, when I consider myself in so far only as I am a thinking thing, I can distinguish in myself no parts, but I very clearly discern that I am somewhat absolutely one and entire; and although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, yet, when a foot, an arm, or any other part is cut off, I am conscious that nothing has been taken from my mind; nor can the faculties of willing, perceiving, conceiving, etc., properly be called its parts, for it is the same mind that is exercised [all entire] in willing, in perceiving, and in conceiving, etc. But quite the opposite holds in corporeal or extended things; for I cannot imagine any one of them [how small soever it may be], which I cannot easily sunder in thought, and which, therefore, I do not know to be divisible. This would be sufficient to teach me that the mind or soul of man is entirely different from the body, if I had not already been apprised of it on other grounds.

I remark, in the next place, that the mind does not immediately receive the impression from all the parts of the body, but only from the brain, or perhaps even from one small part of it, viz., that in which the common sense (senses communis) is said to be, which as often as it is affected in the same way gives rise to the same perception in the mind, although meanwhile the other parts of the body may be diversely disposed, as is proved by innumerable experiments, which it is unnecessary here to enumerate...

I remark, finally, that as each of the movements that are made in the part of the brain by which the mind is immediately affected, impresses it with but a single sensation, the most likely supposition in the circumstances is, that this movement causes the mind to experience, among all the sensations which it is capable of impressing upon it; that one which is the best fitted, and generally the most useful for the preservation of the human body when it is in full health. But experience shows us that all the perceptions which nature has given us are of such a kind as I have mentioned; and accordingly, there is nothing found in them that does not manifest the power and goodness of God. Thus, for example, when the nerves of the foot are violently or more than usually shaken, the motion passing through the medulla of the spine to the innermost parts of the brain affords a sign to the mind on which it experiences a sensation, viz., of pain, as if it were in the foot, by which the mind is admonished and excited to do its utmost to remove the cause of it as dangerous and hurtful to the foot. It is true that God could have so constituted the nature of man as that the same motion in the brain would have informed the mind of something altogether different: the motion might, for example, have been the occasion on which the mind became conscious of itself, in so far as it is in the brain, or in so far as it is in some place intermediate between the foot and the brain, or, finally, the occasion on which it perceived some other object quite different, whatever that might be; but nothing of all this would have so well contributed to the preservation of the body as that which the mind actually feels..

Whence it is quite manifest that, notwithstanding the sovereign goodness of God, the nature of man, in so far as it is composed of mind and body, cannot but be sometimes fallacious. For, if there is any cause which excites, not in the foot, but in some one of the parts of the nerves that stretch from the foot to the brain, or even in the brain itself, the same movement that is ordinarily created when the foot is ill affected, pain will be felt, as it were, in the foot, and the sense will thus be naturally deceived; for as the same movement in the brain can but impress the mind with the same sensation, and as this sensation is much more frequently excited by a cause which hurts the foot than by one acting in a different quarter, it is reasonable that it should lead the mind to feel pain in the foot rather than in any other part of the body. And if it sometimes happens that the parchedness of the throat does not arise, as is usual, from drink being necessary for the health of the body, but from quite the opposite cause, as is the case with the dropsical, yet it is much better that it should be deceitful in that instance, than if, on the contrary, it were continually fallacious when the body is well-disposed; and the same holds true in other cases.

... when I perceive objects with regard to which I can distinctly determine both the place whence they come, and that in which they are, and the time at which they appear to me, and when, without interruption, I can connect the perception I have of them with the whole of the other parts of my life, I am perfectly sure that what I thus perceive occurs while I am awake and not during sleep. And I ought not in the least degree to doubt of the truth of these presentations, if, after having called together all my senses, my memory, and my understanding for the purpose of examining them, no deliverance is given by any one of these faculties which is repugnant to that of any other: for since God is no deceiver, it necessarily follows that I am not herein deceived. But because the necessities of action frequently oblige us to come to a determination before we have had leisure for so careful an examination, it must be confessed that the life of man is frequently obnoxious to error with respect to individual objects; and we must, in conclusion, acknowledge the weakness of our nature.

Click here to read Meditation VI.

Rules for the Direction of the Mind (IV: There is need of a method for finding the truth):

For reason does not insist that whatever we see or imagine thus is a truth, but it tells us clearly that all our ideas or notions must have some foundation of truth. [This is true Descartes maintains, since God would not deceive us.]

[The paradox that Descartes faces is that even though God is good and would not deceive us, yet error exits.] science is acquired except by mental intuition or intuition I understand...the conception which an unclouded and attentive mind give us so readily and distinctly that we are wholly freed from doubt about that which we understand.

  1. I exist
  2. a triangle is bounded by three lines only--i.e., mathematical concepts] which we understand all necessary inference from other facts that are known with certainity. [These facts are] deducted from true and known principles by the continuous and uninterrupted mind that has a clear vision of each step in the process....

But this does not prevent us from believing matters that have been divinely revealed as being more certain than our surest knowledge since belief in these things, as all faith in obscure matters, is an action not of our intelligence, but of our will. [Here, Descartes refers to innate knowledge--his basis for God's existence].

from Meditation IV (Of the True and The False):

[Descartes argues as Plato that error is lack of the knowledge of the good. Since God did not create other Gods--i.e., beings who are perfect, we all exist in varying degrees between perfection (God) and non-being (complete error). ] "...I fall into error from the fact that the power given me by God for the purpose of distinguishing truth from error is not infinite..."

[Descartes continues noting that the root of error rests with inadequate knowledge of the good (what Plato said), and the will thereby making improper decision. The problem rests with the fact that although our knowledge is limited, our will appears not to be, and we have the potential to make an infinite number of choices, not all of which will be informed ones.

And further I have reason to be glad on the ground that if He has not given me the power of never going astray ...which depends on a clear and evident knowledge of all the things regarding which I can deliberate, He has at least left within my power the other means, which is firmly to adhere to the resolution never to give judgment on matters whose truth not clearly is known to me;...I can yet, by attentive and frequently repeated meditation, impress it so forcibly on my memory that I shall never fail to recollect it whenever I have need of it, and thus acquire the habit of never going astray.

And inasmuch as it in this that the greatest and principal perfection of man consists, it seems to me that I have not attained a little by this day's Meditation, since I have discovered the source of falsity and error. And certainly there can be no other source than that which I have explained; for as often as I so restrain my will within the limits of my knowledge that it forms no judgment except on matters which are clearly and distinctly represented to it by the understanding, I can never be deceived; for every clear and distinct conception is without doubt something, and hence cannot derive its origin from what is nought, but must of necessity have God as its author--God, I say, who being supremely perfect, cannot be the cause of any error; and consequently we must conclude that such a conception [or such a judgment] is true. Nor have I only learned to-dav what I should avoid in order that I may not err, but also how I should act in order to arrive at a knowledge of the truth; for without doubt I shall arrive at these end if I devote my attention sufficiently to those things which I perfectly understand, and if I separate from these that which I only understand confusedly and with obscurity.

from Discourse on Method

...God has given us some light with which to distinguish truth from error...The four following would prove sufficient for me: The first was never to accept anything as true for which I did not clearly know to be such...avoid prejudice. the second to divided each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, as might be necessary for its adequate solution. The third to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and the knowledge of the more complex...and the last in every case to make enumerations so complete...that I may be assured that nothing was omitted. Seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us, and I supposed that all objects that had ever entered my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I THINK, HENCE I AM [Cogito, ergo sum] was so certain that no ground of doubt could be order to think, it is necessary to exist. I might take as a general rule the principle that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly perceive...we rise to causes through their effects and avail ourselves of many experiments.

On the Body as a machine (Meditation VI):

And as a clock, composed of wheels and counter weights, observes not the less accurately all the laws of nature when it is ill made, and points out the hours incorrectly, than when it satisfies the desire of the maker in every respect; so likewise if the body of man be considered as a kind of machine, so made up and composed of bones, nerves, muscles, veins, blood, and skin, that although there were in it no mind, it would still exhibit the same motions which it at present manifests involuntarily, and therefore without the aid of the mind, [and simply by the dispositions of its organs], I easily discern that it would also be as natural for such a body, supposing it dropsical, for example, to experience the parchedness of the throat that is usually accompanied in the mind by the sensation of thirst, and to be disposed by this parchedness to move its nerves and its other parts in the way required for drinking, and thus increase its malady and do itself harm, as it is natural for it, when it is not indisposed to be stimulated to drink for its good by a similar cause; and although looking to the use for which a clock was destined by its maker, I may say that it is deflected from its proper nature when it incorrectly indicates the hours, and on the same principle, considering the machine of the human body as having been formed by God for the sake of the motions which it usually manifests, although I may likewise have ground for thinking that it does not follow the order of its nature when the throat is parched and drink does not tend to its preservation, nevertheless I yet plainly discern that this latter acceptation of the term nature is very different from the other: for this is nothing more than a certain denomination, depending entirely on my thought, and hence called extrinsic, by which I compare a sick man and an imperfectly constructed clock with the idea I have of a man in good health and a well made clock; while by the other acceptation of nature is understood something which is truly found in things, and therefore possessed of some truth.

On the Existence of God: (Meditation V):

Click here to read Meditation V

Moral Maxims:

I formed far myself a code of morals for the time being which did not consist of more than three or four maxims...

The first was to obey the laws and customs of my country, adhering constantly to the religion in which by God's grace I had been instructed since my childhood, and in all other things directing my conduct by opinions the most moderate in nature, and the farthest removed from excess in all those which are commonly received and acted on by the most judicious of those with whom I might come in contact. For since I began to count my own opinions as nought, because I desired to place all under examination, I was convinced that I could not do better than follow those held by people on whose judgment reliance could be seemed to me that it was most expedient to bring my conduct into harmony with the ideas of those with whom I should have to live; and that, in order to ascertain that these were their real opinions, I should observe what they did rather than what they said, not only because in the corrupt state of our manners there are few people who desire to say all that they believe, but also because many are themselves ignorant of their beliefs. For since the act of thought by which we believe a thing is different from that by which we know that we believe a, the one often exists without the other. And amongst many opinions all equally received, I chose only the most moderate, both because these are always most suited for putting into practice, and probably the best (for all excess has a tendency to be bad), and also because I should have in a less degree turned aside from the right path, supposing that 1 was wrong, than if, having chosen an extreme course, i found that I had chosen amiss. I also made a point of counting as excess all the engagements by means of which we limit in some degree our liberty. Not that I hold in low esteem those laws which, in order 16 remedy the inconstancy of feeble souls, permit, when we have a good object in our view, that certain vows be taken, or contracts made, which oblige us to carry out that object. This sanction is even given for security in commerce where designs are wholly indifferent. But because I saw nothing in all the world remaining constant and because for my own part I promised myself gradually to get my judgments to grow better and never to grow worse. I should have thought that I had committed a serious ill against common sense if, because I approved of something at one time, I was obliged to regard it similarly at a later time, after it had possibly ceased to meet my approval, or after I had ceased to regard it in a favorable light.

My second maxim was that of being as firm and resolute in my actions as I could be be, and not to follow less faithfully opinions the most dubious, when my mind was once made up regarding them, than if these had been beyond doubt. In this I should be following the example of travelers, who, finding themselves lost in a forest, know that they ought not to wonder first to one side and then to the other, nor, still less, to stop in one place, but understand that they should continue to walk as straight as they can in one direction, not diverging for any slight reason, even though a was possibly chance alone that first determined them in their choice. By this means if they do not go exactly where they wish, they will at least arrive somewhere at the end, where probably they will be better off than in the middle of a forest. And thus since often enough in the actions of life no delay is permissible. It is very certain that, when it is beyond our power to discern the opinions which carry most truth, we should follow the most probable; and even although we notice no greater probability in the one opinion than in the other; we at least should make up our minds to follow a particular one and afterwards consider it as no longer doubtful in its relationship to practice, but as very true and very certain, inasmuch as the reason which caused us to determine upon it is known to be so. And henceforward this principle was sufficient to deliver me from all the penance and remorse which usually affect the mind and agitate the conscience of those weak and vacillating creatures who allow themselves to keep changing their procedure, and practice as good, things which they afterwards judge to be evil.

My third maxim was to try always to conquer myself rather than fortune, and to alter my desires rather than change the order of the world, and generally to accustom myself to believe that there is nothing entirely within our power but our own thoughts: so that after we have done our best in regard to the things that are without us, our ill-success cannot possibly be failure on our part. And this alone seemed to me sufficient to prevent my desiring anything in the future beyond what I could actually obtain, hence rendering me content; for since our will does not naturally induce us to desire nothing but what our understanding represents to it as in some way possible of attainment, it is certain that if we consider all good things which are outside if we are equally outside of our power, we should have more regret in resigning those goods which appear to pertain to our birth, when we are deprived of them for no fault of our own, then we have in not possessing the kingdoms of China or Mexico. in the same way, in making what is called a virtue out of a necessity, we should no more desire to be well if ill, or free, if in prison, than we now do to have our bodies formed of a substance as little corruptible as diamonds, or to have wings to fly with like birds. I allow, however, that to accustom oneself to regard all things from this point of view requires long exercise and meditation often repeated; and I believe that it is principally ill this that is to be found the secret of those philosophers who, in ancient times, were able to free themselves from the empire of fortune, or, despite suffering or poverty, to rival their gods in their happiness. For, ceaselessly occupying themselves in considering the limits which were prescribed to them by nature, they persuaded themselves so completely that nothing was within their own power but their thoughts, that this conviction alone was sufficient to present their having any longing for other things. And they had so absolute a mastery over their thoughts that they had same reason for esteeming themselves as more rich and mote powerful, and more free and more happy than other men, who, however favored by nature or fortune they might be, if devoid of this philosophy, never could arrive at all at which they aim.

And last of all, to conclude this moral code, I felt it incumbent on me to make a review of the various occupations of men in this life in order to try to choose out the best; and without wishing to say anything of the employment of others I thought that I could not do better than continue in the one in which I found myself engaged, that is to say, in occupying my whole life in cultivating Reason, and in advancing myself as much as possible in the knowledge of the truth in accordance with the method which I had prescribed myself. I had experienced so much satisfaction since beginning to use this method, that I did not believe that any sweeter or more innocent could in this life be found, - every day discovering by its means some truths which seemed to me sufficiently important, although commonly ignored by other men. The satisfaction which I had so filled my mind that all else seemed of no account, besides, the three preceding maxims were founded solely on the plan which I had formed of continuing to instruct myself. For since God has given to each of us some light with which to distinguish the truth from error, I could not believe that I ought for a single moment to content myself with accepting the opinions held by others unless I had in view the employment of my own judgment in examining them at the proper time; and I could not have held myself free of scruple in following such opinions, if nevertheless I had not intended to lose no occasion of finding superior opinions, supposing them to exist; and finally, I should not have been able to restrain my desires nor to remain content, if I had not followed a road by which, thinking that I should be certain to be able to acquire all the knowledge of which I was capable, I also thought I should likewise be certain of obtaining all the best things which could ever come within my power. And inasmuch as our will impels us neither to follow after nor to flee from anything, excepting as our understanding represents it as good or evil, it is sufficient to judge wisely in order to act well, and the best judgment bring the best action - that Is to say, the acquisition of all the virtues and all the other good things that it Is possible to obtain. When one is certain that this point is reached, one cannot fail to be contented.

The Passions of the Soul:

...the soul may have pleasures of its own, but as to those which are common to it and the body, they depend entirely on the passions, so that the men whom they can most move are capable of partaking most of enjoyment in this life. It is true that such men may also find most bitterness when they do no know how to employ them well, or fortune is contrary to them. But the principal use of prudence or self-control is that it teaches us to be masters of our passions, and to so control and guide them that the evils which they cause are quite bearable, and that we even derive joy from them all.

from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:

Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks, and that which his mind is applied about while thinking, being ideas, it is past doubt that men have in their mind several ideas, such as those expressed by the words, "whiteness," "motion," "thinking"...How does he come by them? Let us suppose the mind to be as we say, white paper [blank slate, or tabula rasa], void of all characters, without any ideas. Whence has it all the materials, of reason and knowledge? From experience...our senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey unto the mind several distinct perceptions of things according to these various ways wherein those objects do affect them...yellow, white, heat , cold...This great source of most of the ideas whatever it is the mind can be employed about in thinking, we have, depending wholly upon our senses, I call sensation. the principle of the operations of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got; which operations when the mind comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish the understanding with another set of reasoning, knowing, willing...I call this reflection, the notice which the mind takes of its own operations. The first capacity of the human intellect is that the mind is fit to receive the impressions made on it, either through the senses by outward objects, or by its own operations when it reflects on them. We can have no knowledge farther than we have ideas. We can have no knowledge farther than we can have perception of agreement or disagreement. We cannot examine and perceive all the relations they have to one another...Our knowledge comes short of the reality of things...I suppose it may of use to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things which upon examination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capacities; our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.

Click here to read the full Essay with links to Descartes

from The Reasonableness of Christianity:

238. Though the works of nature, in every part of them, sufficiently evidence a Deity; yet the world made so little use of their reason, that they saw him not, where, even by the impressions of himself, he was easy to be found. Sense and lust blinded their minds in some, and a careless inadvertency in others, and fearful apprehensions in most (who either believed there were, or could not but suspect there might be, superior unknown beings) gave them up into the hands of their priests to fill their heads with false notions of the deity, and their worship with foolish rites, as they pleased; and what dread or craft once began, devotion soon made sacred, and religion immutable. In this state of darkness and ignorance of the true God, vice and superstition held the world; nor could any help be had or hoped for from reason, which could not be heard, and was judged to have nothing to do in the case: the priests every where, to secure their empire, having excluded reason from having anything to do in religion. And in the crowd of wrong notions, and invented rites, the world had almost lost the sight of the one only true God. The rational and thinking part of mankind, 'tis true, when they sought after him, found the one, supreme, invisible God: but if they acknowledged and worshipped him, it was only in their own minds. They kept this truth locked up in their own breasts as a secret, nor ever durst venture it amongst the people, much less the priests, those wary guardians of their own creeds and profitable inventions. Hence we see that reason, speaking never so clearly to the wise and virtuous, had ever authority enough to prevail on the multitude, and to persuade the societies of men, that there was but one God, that alone was to be owned and worshipped. The belief and worship of one God, was the national religion of the Israelites alone; and, if we will consider it, it was introduced and supported amongst that people by revelation. They were in Goshen, and had light, whilst the rest of the world were in almost Egyptian darkness, without God in the world. There was no part of mankind, who had quicker parts, or improved them more; that had a greater light of reason, or followed it farther in all sorts of speculations, than the Athenians, and yet we find but one Socrates amongst them, that opposed and laughed at their polytheisms, and wrong opinions of the deity; and we see how they rewarded him for it. Whatsoever Plato, and the soberest of the philosophers thought of the nature and being of the one God, they were fain, in their outward worship, to go with the herd, and keep to the religion established by law; which what it was, and how it had disposed the mind of these knowing and quicksighted Grecians, St. Paul tells us, Acts xvii. 22-29, "Ye men of Athens," says he, "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands: neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth unto all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all the nations of men, for to dwell on the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitations; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel him out, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us." Here he tells the Athenians, that they, and the rest of the world (given up to superstition) whatever light there was in the works of creation and providence, to lead them to the true God, yet they few of them found him. He was every where near them; yet they were but like people groping and feeling for something in the dark, and did not see him with a full and clear day-light; "But thought the Godhead like to gold and silver, and stone, graven by art and man's device."

239. In this state of darkness and error, in reference to the "true God" Our Saviour found the world. But the clear revelation he brought with him, dissipated this darkness; made the one invisible true God known to the world: and that with such evidence and energy, that polytheism and idolatry hath no where been able to withstand it. But wherever the preaching of the truth he delivered, and the light of the gospel hath come, those mists have been dispelled. And, in effect, we, see that since Our Saviour's time, the belief of one God has prevailed and spread itself over the face of the earth. For even to the light that the Messiah brought into the world with him, we must ascribe the owning, and profession of one God, which the Mahometan religion hath derived and borrowed from it. So that, in this sense, it is certainly and manifestly true of Our Saviour, what St. John says of him, I John iii. 8, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." This light the world needed, and this light it received from him: that there is but "one God", and he "eternal, invisible;" nor like to any visible objects, nor to be represented by them....

241. 2. Next to the knowledge of one God; maker of all things, a clear knowledge of their duty was wanting to mankind. This part of knowledge, though cultivated with some care, by some of the heathen philosophers, yet got little footing among the people. All men indeed, under pain of displeasing the gods, were to frequent the temples, every one went to their sacrifices and services; but the priests made it not their business to teach them virtue. If they were diligent in their observations and ceremonies, punctual in their feasts and solemnities, and the tricks of religion, the holy tribe assured them, the gods were pleased; and they looked no farther. Few went to the schools of the philosophers, to be instructed in their duties and to know what was good and evil in their action. The priests sold the better penny-worths, and therefore had all their custom. ...It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that 'tis too hard a task for unassisted reason, to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light. And 'tis at least a surer and shorter way, to the apprehensions of the vulgar, and mass of mankind, that one manifestly sent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a King and law-maker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long, and sometimes intricate deductions of reason, to be made out to them: such strains of reasonings the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, skill to judge of. ...'tis plain in fact, that human reason unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of Nature. And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the new testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by Our Saviour, and taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part, of ignorant, but inspired fishermen.

...'Tis not every writer of morals, or compiler of it from others, that can thereby be erected into a law-giver to mankind; and a dictator of rules, which are therefore valid, because they are to be found in his books, under the authority of this or that philosopher. He that any one will pretend to set up in this kind, and have his rules pass for authentic directions, must shew, that either he builds his doctrine upon principles of reason, self-evident in themselves, and that he deduces all the parts of it from thence, by clear and evident demonstration; or, must shew his commission from heaven, that he comes with authority from God, to deliver his will and commands to the world. In the former way, nobody that I know, before Our Saviour's time, ever did, or went about to give us a morality. Tis true, there is a law of nature: but who is there that ever did, or undertook to give it us all entire, as a law; no more nor no less, than what was contained in, and had the obligation of that law? Who, ever made out all the parts of it, put them together, and shewed the world their obligation? Where was there any such code, that mankind might have recourse to, as their unerring rule, before Our Saviour's time? If there was not, 'tis plain, there was need of one to give us such a morality; such a law, which might be the sure guide of those who had a desire to go right: and, if they had a mind, need not mistake their duty; but might be certain when they had performed, when failed in it. Such a law of morality, Jesus Christ hath given us in the New Testament; but by the latter of these ways, by revelation. We have from him a full and sufficient rule for our direction, and conformable to that of reason. But the truth and obligation of its precepts, have their force, and are put past doubt to us, by the evidence of his mission. He was sent by God: His miracles shew it; and the authority of God in his precepts cannot be questioned. Here morality has a sure standard, that revelation vouches, and reason cannot gainsay, nor question; but both together witness to come from God the great law-maker. And such a one as this out of the New Testament, I think the world never had, nor can any one say is any where else to be found. Let me ask any one, who is forward to think that the doctrine of morality was full and clear in the world, at Our Saviour's birth; whether would he have directed Brutus and Cassius (both men of parts and virtue, the one whereof believed, and the other disbelieved a future being), to be satisfied in the rules and obligations of all the parts of their duties; if they should have asked him where they might find the law, they were to live by, and by which they should be charged or acquitted, as guilty or innocent? If to the sayings of the wise, and the declarations of philosophers, he sends them into a wild wood of uncertainty, to an endless maze, from which they should never get out: if to the religions of the world, yet worse: and if to their own reason, he refers them to that which had some light and certainty; but yet had hitherto failed all mankind in a perfect rule; and we see, resolved not the doubts that had risen amongst the studious and thinking philosophers; nor had yet been able to convince the civilized parts of the world, that they had not given, nor could, without a crime, take away, the lives of their children, by exposing them....

V. Summary of 17th Century currents of thought--note as your research the positive and negative influence of each:


a. There are three schools of literature in this period. Read the following by consulting the textbook and / or online resources...

b. LITERARY TERMS TO DEFINE: (Consult a literary dictionary to define the stylistic characteristics of each of the three schools including the elements of the epic style [recall The Odyssey and Beowulf]. Check the British Literature Index for Dr. Samuel Johnson, and T.S. Eliot on John Donne.) Determine...

    1. what carpe diem means,
    2. what a metaphysical conceit is,
    3. why WIT becomes an important term: (Does its meaning change from the Renaissance psychology perspective?)