Richard Gifford

(1725—1807) Church of England clergyman and writer

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Joseph Priestley (1733—1804) theologian and natural philosopher


Ralph Cudworth (1617—1688) philosopher and theologian

John Clarke (1682—1757) dean of Salisbury and mathematician

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Richard Gifford was born in Shropshire and died at Duffield, Derbyshire on 1 March 1807. He spent his early life in Shropshire and then went to Balliol College, Oxford, receiving his BA in 1748. He took holy orders, eventually becoming vicar of Duffield (1759) and rector of North Ockendon, Essex (1772). The only philosophical work Gifford published was the intermittently careful, traditional evaluation of Priestley's materialism, Outlines of an Answer to Dr. Priestley's Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit (1781). Gifford claimed that, in Priestley's view, ‘there is not in Nature any such Thing as Matter, distinct from Attraction and Repulsion’. Citing objections advanced generations earlier by Cudworth, John Clarke (d. 1741), Norris and Berkeley, Gifford rejected Priestley's conception of matter as force and powers in favour of the view that, while powers are real, corpuscular matter in motion causes powers of attraction and repulsion. He further contended that to account for the existence of consciousness and mind we need to appeal to principles beyond those used in the explanation of the material world. In arguing against Priestley's materialism, Gifford appears to have been at best imperfectly aware that Priestley had altered the concept of matter from that discussed by those figures from whom Gifford acquires most of his anti-materialist arguments.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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