John Toland

John Toland: His Methods, Manners, and Mind

Stephen H. Daniel
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 263
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    John Toland
    Book Description:

    Drawing on a variety of published and unpublished material representing Toland's broad interests, Professor Daniel reveals a common theme emphasizing man's capacity for independent thought on basic philosophical, religious, and political issues. Roughly chronological, Daniel's treatment describes Toland's progressive refinement of this fundamental aspect of his thought. After examining, in his early works, the process whereby religion becomes mystified, Toland turned to biography, demonstrating that through it one can regain rational control over religion. Prejudices and superstitions, topics of the Letters to Serena, are shown to be overcome through corrections implicit in the principles of biographical and historical exegesis. Polemic as philosophic methode required Toland to provide a doctrine of esoteric communication. In the course of his later writings this doctrine became grounded in a metaphysics suitable for the Cieronian religion of the pantheists.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6402-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    Although most modern readers first encounter John Toland in the context of the English deistic movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one also finds references to Toland in studies of Milton, the Druids, the origins of Freemasonry, English political and diplomatic history, the Newtonians, the history of biblical criticism, the history of the Jews in England, and even the history of geology. In addition, Toland’s name now appears with regularity in studies of John Locke, Jonathan Swift, and the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno. As a personal acquaintance of G. W. Leibniz, Pierre Bayle, Anthony Ashley Cooper (third earl of...

  7. I The Response to Priestcraft
    (pp. 21-59)

    John toland’s writings could be described as a continual effort to overcome the prejudices or superstitions of the unlearned, the “vulgar.” Although Toland frequently noted the ease with which the vulgar can be misled into adopting superstitious beliefs, he never lost faith in intelligence as basically reliable. The ordinary man’s credulity, Toland proposed, is based upon his belief that things are what they seem and what a man says can be accepted at face value for what he means. Admittedly, men often differ in their opinions and sometimes need to be corrected. But, for Toland, this does not undermine the...

  8. II Reason in Biography
    (pp. 60-93)

    Unlike many other philosophers, Toland devoted a sizable amount of his time and energy to biographical work. Although he also produced historical works on movements or peoples (e.g., the Druids) and often remarked the need for a complete history of England, he preferred to focus on theindividualin history. Whether in a biography of Milton or Harrington, in brief accounts of the major figures of the House of Hanover, or in introductions to collected memoirs of such prominent figures as Lord Holles of Ifield (1599–1680), and Lieutenant General Edmund Ludlow (1617–92), Toland’s treatments always portrayed the individual...

  9. III The Tyranny of Custom in Prejudicial Education
    (pp. 94-119)

    Although my discussion up to this point has not adhered strictly to the chronological order of Toland’s works, a general thematic development occurs as we move through this early part of his publishing career. The early works focus on topics such as the stifling effect of priestcraft and the accessibility of Christianity to reason raised inChristianity Not Mysterious. Indeed, we might be tempted to refer to the years 1695–1704 as a period in which Toland’s writings were devoted solely to religion; but we would do so at the risk of minimizing the importance to him of the biographical...

  10. IV Historical and Literary Exegesis
    (pp. 120-138)

    Much of toland’s work on biblical criticism and the treatment of classical sources occurred during his sojourn in Holland from 1708 to 1711. Works such asAdeisidaemonandNazarenusresulted from the research conducted at this time when his friends and correspondents were asked not to write to him about matters of political intrigue in England.

    Toland’s research in the writings of the ancients and in the interpretation of scriptural and ecclesiastical sources extended back at least as far as his studies with Spanheim in 1692—93. Soon after his arrival in Oxford, in 1694, Toland completed a treatise challenging...

  11. V The Method of Polemic
    (pp. 139-163)

    That many thinkers become embroiled in vociferous disputes about their ideas is often considered accidental to their work itself. Attributable to personality clashes or competition for notoriety, such disputes do not appear to be important for future generations of readers—except perhaps for the historian who tries to understand the personalities or politics behind certain remarks. Particularly in philosophy—often regarded as a science of eternal verities—are the results of personal conflicts, although occasionally considered interesting, overshadowed by the force of the ideas dealt with.

    With John Toland, however, dispute, confrontation—polemic in general—was not accidental. His writing...

  12. VI Toleration and the Appeal to Esoteric Communication
    (pp. 164-185)

    Because toland was involved in sectarian debates and Political activity and intrigue, he devoted much of his writing to questions of religious toleration and civil liberty. He started his public career with issues of interest to the religious sects, but his experience with their wranglings and with the uproar occasioned byChristianity Not Mysteriousdissuaded him from engaging in further disputes with the divines.

    InChristianity Not MysteriousToland had intended to convince people that everything in their religion must be intelligible. Considering this task accomplished, he decided to take up studies that could be addressed without embroiling himself in...

  13. VII The Metaphysics of Polemic
    (pp. 186-210)

    Toland’s move into metaphysics was occasioned by the Convergence of several influences in his life. Late in the 1690S, when he was becoming recognized as one of the chief pamphleteers of the Whigs, some of Newton’s supporters (particularly Samuel Clarke) began an attack on his religious doctrines and philosophic techniques. Although Toland had not singled out the Newtonians for any explicit criticism, attacks on the principles of partisans of High Church Anglicanism and of the Tories had been interpreted as an indirect slap at the structured and ordered universe described by Newtonians. Many of those belonging to the High Church...

  14. VIII Pantheist Philosophy
    (pp. 211-225)

    Seldom do extended treatments of Toland’s thought fail to Point out that he appears to have been the first author to use the word “pantheist.” The term first occurred in a letter entitled “Indifference in Disputes: Recommended by a Pantheist to an Orthodox Friend,” which served as a preface toSocinianism Truly Stated.¹ InOrigines Judaicae(1709) and inPantheisticonthe term reappeared; but in these later works it referred not only to the attitudes or methods of some groups of reflective thinkers (as inSocinianism Truly Stated) but also to the religious character of the pantheists’ beliefs.

    Although in...

  15. IX Structure in Toland’s Thought
    (pp. 226-229)

    It might be true that the ideal of the pantheist sodality served as a point of convergence for some of Toland’s interests, but one could indeed be on shaky ground to claim that it was theculminationof his philosophic thinking. In the two years of his life remaining after the appearance ofPantheisticon, Toland continued to address many of the topics that had interested him throughout his life. But although engaged for the most part in research for his projected history of the Druids, the scheme of which was completed in 1718, he did not live long enough to...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 230-242)
  17. Index
    (pp. 243-248)