Boyle’s Philosophy of Religion

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Boyle’s passion for apologetics was already evident in his early twenties, when he was profoundly impressed by reading defenses of Christianity by Philippe de Mornay and others. His primary motive was to persuade wayward Christians, including members of his immediate family, to live more piously and to devote themselves to charitable works. After he accepted the mechanical philosophy, he integrated it fully into his program to prove the truth of Christianity, especially against those sceptics who used the new science to justify their godlessness. The clockwork universe required a Creator, made genuine biblical miracles easier to identify, enhanced human dominion over the creation, and drove pagan notions of nature to the periphery of natural philosophy. Simultaneously, Boyle carefully limited the scope of human reason, while underscoring God’s freedom and sovereignty over the laws of nature. Thus, the world could be discovered only empirically.


Originally published as:

“Boyle’s Philosophy of Religion.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Robert Boyle, ed. Jan-Erik Jones (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2020), 257-82.