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Sir Thomas Browne

Sir Thomas Browne: A Study in Religious Philosophy

Copyright Date: 1950
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Sir Thomas Browne
    Book Description:

    This original and perceptive study of the writings of the great seventeenth-century author of Religio Medici offers the general reader a view of the intellectual world of Browne’s time, and for the special student of the period provides a more extended exploration of Browne’s religious philosophy than has previously been available. Mr. Dunn recognizes that Browne is primarily an artist and that his books must not be forced into the framework of any mere logical system. But although Browne is only secondarily a philosopher, the acknowledged greatness of his writing is due in part to the brilliance and power of his thought. Accordingly, his philosophy is here examined seriously and shown in its relations to the main intellectual currents of his time. Mr. Dunn, because he combines an appreciation of Browne’s poetic and imaginative power with an informed insight into its philosophical basis, can be recommended as the ideal critic of this compelling literary figure. Browne’s books emerge form this study as more than the charming haunt of the antiquarian and esthete. At one of the most dramatic moments of European cultural history -- the point of transition between the decaying tradition of the Middle Ages and the opening phase of modern science -- they nobly express a great humanist’s convictions about the meaning of the universe and of human life. The present volume is a complete revision of a work published in 1926 and long out of print.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6219-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. CHAPTER I The World of Sir Thomas Browne
    (pp. 3-36)

    For the follower of intellectual byways in seventeenth-century England, no figure is more provocative and rewarding than Sir Thomas Browne. As antiquary, embryo naturalist, enlightened physician, restlessly speculative philosopher, he is an enduring personality whose name is inextricably woven into the age of Bacon, Gilbert, and Harvey. In the affairs of his day, through a long life which extended from the first year of James I to more than twenty years beyond the Restoration, he played a minor part, but with that brilliance and versatility which the impulses of the late Renaissance fostered so prolifically. He is one of the...

  4. CHAPTER II Faith and Reason
    (pp. 37-76)

    As a writer about religion Sir Thomas Browne stands in luminous and winning contrast to the spirit of his time. The seventeenth century believed in polemic religion; its weapons were argumentative heavy artillery and the cut and thrust of sharp dialectic, with no quarter asked or given. It grappled magnificently with great issues, it stooped to mean ones, with a partisan energy and thundering dogmatism hard to match in any period. It was an age of terrific invective whose readiest word for a distasteful argument was “heresy” or “atheism,” and whose coarsest would no longer be printed. In a word,...

  5. CHAPTER III The Art of God
    (pp. 77-139)

    The philosophy of Sir Thomas Browne lies within the framework of knowledge and beliefs that was inherited from the Middle Ages and carried down through the Renaissance in the long tradition of Christian humanism. This world-view with its divinely constituted order, harmony, and proportion, was as common in all its essentials to Shakespeare and Milton as to Thomas Aquinas, to Martin Luther as to Richard Hooker. The divine order extended in a great chain or ladder of being from top to bottom of the universe.

    “There is in this universe,” Browne himself says, “a stair or manifest scale of creatures,...

  6. CHAPTER IV That Great Amphibium
    (pp. 140-178)

    “We are only that amphibious piece between a corporal and spiritual essence, that middle form that links those two together, and makes good the method of God and nature, that jumps not from extremes, but unites the incompatible distances by some middle and participating natures. . . . Thus is man that great and true amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live, not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds.”¹

    “Thus we are men, and we know not how: there is something in us that can be without us, and will be after us;...

  7. Index
    (pp. 179-182)