Philosophy and Theology In A Burlesque Mode
John Toland and The Way Of Paradox
By Daniel Clifford Fouke
(Humanity Books, Hardcover, 9781591023241, 395pp.)
Publication Date: February 28, 2007
Categories: History & Surveys - Modern
Philosopher Daniel C. Fouke sheds the light of rhetorical analysis on a subversive thinker whose challenges to institutional authority have awakened recent scholarly interest.
John Toland (1670-1722) was a controversial Irish-born British freethinker, satirist, and critic of traditional Christianity. His work Christianity Not Mysterious, now considered a classic exposition of deism, provoked outrage in its time, but eventually led to a healthy skepticism regarding the historical reliability of the biblical canon. Though little known today, Toland was an acquaintance of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, and Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, among others.
Fouke argues that Toland’s use of language in theology and philosophy represents a neglected current of early modern thought, in significant contrast to Locke, to whom Toland is often compared. Toland’s practice of philosophy recognizes a social dimension to knowledge, which cannot be found in many of his contemporaries. Fouke analyzes Toland’s "exoteric strategy" of speaking as others speak, but with a different meaning. He argues that Toland’s philosophy and theology had little to do with positive expression of beliefs, and that his philosophical aim was not to develop an epistemology, a true metaphysical system, an ideal form of governance, or the basis of ethical obligation, but to find ways to participate in the discourses of others while undermining those discourses from within. Fouke traces Toland’s practices to Shaftesbury’s conception of a comic or "derisory" mode of philosophizing aimed at exposing pedantry, imposture, dogmatism, and folly.
This important study adds new depth to our understanding of a neglected though influential British writer.
Daniel C. Fouke (Dayton, OH) is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dayton and the author of The Enthusiastical Concerns of Dr. Henry More: Religious Meaning and the Psychology of Delusion.
"Drawing on a wealth of recent research on many often overlooked figures, Fouke masterfully displays how Toland’s strategies of subverting theological and political discourse distinguish him from his contemporaries. A must read for anyone working in 17th- and 18th-century English religious thought."
Professor of Philosophy, Texas A&M University
Author of John Toland: His Methods, Manners, and Mind