William Wollaston

Summary

William Wollaston, born 26 March 1659, died 29 October 1724, was an English writer and philosopher. He is remembered today for a book he completed just two years before his death, The Religion of Nature Delineated (first edition 1722, second edition 1724).

Wollaston was born in Coton-Clanford, Staffordshire into a well-established family in the area who were distantly related to Sir John Wollaston, the then Mayor of London. Only at the age of 10 did he begin his studies at the newly opened Latin school in Shenstone, Staffordshire, and was eventually admitted to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1674).

When he left Cambridge in 1681, he was employed as a teacher at Birmingham Primary School. Shortly afterwards he also became a clergyman. In 1688 he inherited a fortune from an uncle and in November of that year he settled in London. A year later, on 26 November, he married Catharine Charlton and had eleven children with her, four of whom died during his lifetime. The couple lived happily together for 30 years before Catharine finally died on 21 July 1720.

Wollaston devoted his life in London to the study of philosophy outside the academy. He rarely left the city and always turned down any job offer he received. He wrote extensively on language, philosophy, religion and history during his life, but burned most of the texts as he became ill and feared he would not have time to finish or be satisfied with them.

Utöver Religion of Nature Delineated publicerade Wollaston också en mindre bok anonymt år 1691. Den hette On the Design of the Book of Ecclesiastes, or the Unreasonableness of Men’s Restless Contention for the Present Enjoyments och var skriven i form av en dikt.

Wollaston suffered from poor health throughout his lifetime. Just after finishing his book The Religion of Nature Delineated, he broke his arm in an accident and lost much of his strength shortly afterwards. Eventually he became too ill and died on October 29, 1724. His remains were then carried to Great Finborough in Suffolk where he was buried by his wife’s side.

Wollaston’s Religion of Nature was one of the most popular philosophical works of its time. The book’s intention was mainly to answer two questions, first that of whether there is anything that can be called a natural religion, and if so, what it is. Wollaston begins the work with the assumption that religion and morality are the same. He then attempts to show how religion is in fact “the pursuit of happiness through the practice of truth and reason” and thus argued that moral evil was tantamount to a denial of a true proposition in practice. Moral goodness, in turn, was thus an affirmation of it.

Note

Sources

  1. William Wollaston
  2. William Wollaston
  3. ^ a b c Porter, Roy, The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, p. 112.
  4. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ Altmann, Alexander, “William Wollaston (1659–1724): English Deist and Rabbinic Scholar”, Transactions (Jewish Historical Society of England), Vol. 16, (1945–1951), pp. 185–211
  6. ^ Will of William Wollaston of Shenton, Leicestershire (P.C.C. 1688, Exton quire).
  7. 1 2 William Wollaston // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
  8. 1 2 William Wollaston // the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (англ.)
  9. 1 2 Brozović D., Ladan T. William Wollaston // Hrvatska enciklopedija (хорв.) — LZMK, 1999. — 9272 с. — ISBN 978-953-6036-31-8
  10. 1 2 3 Pas L. v. Genealogics (англ.) — 2003.