Desmond Clarke on Descartes and Toland

Toland also argues that there is no benefit in making a distinction between what is inconsistent with reason and what merely appears to be inconsistent with reason, and then accepting that we may be required by divine revelation to believe what appears to be irrational. Toland’s answer to this is remarkably similar to Descartes’s: if we relax the criterion of what is credible to admit propositions that at least appear to be irrational, then there is no limit to what we may be invited or required to believe. […]

However in contrast to Descartes, Toland seems to establish reason not only as a criterion of what we can believe, but also as a criterion of what is possible for God.

Desmond M. Clarke (1997)”Toland on Faith and Reason” in Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison and Richard Kearney (eds) John Toland’s Christianity not Mysterious: Text, Associated Works and Critical Essays, Dublin: Lilliput Press, pp. 293-301.

In this essay Desmond Clarke shows how John Toland’s philosophical critiques were not unrepresentative of the concerns of other seventeenth century thinkers, such as Bayle, Descartes and Amyraunt.

Desmond Clarke was best known for his work for his work on Descartes, but also worked on 17th century philosophy (particularly on theories of science, women in philosophy and Blaise Pascal. He published a book on Berkeley and also published widely on political philosophy, human rights and legal theory. He died on the 4th June 2016. See notice on UCC’s Facebook page giving more details of his career and publications, and death notice (with funeral details) here.


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