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Research Graduate School of Philosophy PhD ceremonies

Of clocks and kings

physics, metaphysics, and the role of God in Clarke’s worldview
PhD ceremony:dr. L.B. (Lukas) Wolf
When:September 01, 2022
Supervisors:prof. dr. L.W. (Lodi) Nauta, prof. dr. C.R. Palmerino
Co-supervisor:dr. H.T. (Han Thomas) Adriaenssen
Where:Academy building RUG
Of clocks and kings

This dissertation examines the response of the British philosopher and theologian Samuel Clarke (1675—1729) to the seventeenth century mechanization of the world picture. In his writings, Clarke defends the Christian religion against the looming threat of atheism, by arguing what he considers the excesses of mechanical philosophy.  To do this, Clarke developed a series of arguments against atheism aimed at demonstrating the shortcomings of a purely material or mechanical explanation of the universe. Clarke's writings provide us with a valuable case study for the complex interplay of philosophy, science and religion in early eighteenth century England, and the impact of mechanical philosophy on natural theology. This dissertation improves our understanding of Clarke’s response to the mechanical philosophy by carefully examining the key components of his philosophy: God's active role in the world, the perfection of God's plan, the existence of immaterial substances and forces, and the subsequent reasonableness of the Christian religion. The title refers to the two central competing analogies for the nature of God: God as clockmaker, who made a perfect universe in which he no longer needs to be involved, or God as king, who governs his kingdom’s daily affairs and involves himself in the well-being of his loyal subjects.