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William Paley

(1743—1805) theologian and moralist


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(1743–1805)

English theologian and moral philosopher. Paley is remembered for two contributions to natural theology. The first is the sustained defence of the argument to design for the existence of God, in his Natural Theology (1802). Paley draws extensively on biology and anatomy to convince the reader that natural organisms are like contrivances and machines, and irrefutably the product of intelligent design. The argument had already been intellectually blocked by Hume's Dialogues, and the coming of the theory of evolution is usually thought to have dissolved its residual appeal. Paley is also remembered for his hugely successful A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794), an attempted rebuttal of Hume's argument that in the sphere of religious miracles the credibility of witnesses is always lower than the probability of a miracle that they claim to have witnessed.

Subjects: Arts and Humanities.


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