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William Wollaston

William WollastonBorn: 26-Mar-1659
Birthplace: Coton Clanford, Staffordshire, England
Died: 29-Oct-1724
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Philosopher

Nationality: England
Executive summary: The Religion of Nature Delineated

English philosophical writer, born at Coton-Clanford in Staffordshire on the 26th of March 1659. On leaving Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1681 he became an assistant master at the Birmingham grammar school, and took holy orders. In 1688 an uncle left him a fortune. He then moved to London, married a lady of wealth, and devoted himself to learning and philosophy. He embodied his views in the one book by which he is remembered, The Religion of Nature Delineated (1722, a second edition in 1724). He died in October 1724.

Wollaston's Religion of Nature, which falls between Clarke's Discourse of the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion and Joseph Butler's Sermons, was one of the popular philosophical books of its day. To the 8th edition (1750) was added a life of the author. The book was designed to be an answer to two questions: Is there such a thing as natural religion? and, If there is, what is it? Wollaston starts with the assumption that religion and morality are identical, and labors to show that religion is "the pursuit of happiness by the practice of truth and reason." He claims originality for his theory that the moral evil is the practical denial of a true proposition and moral good the affirmation of it. Wollaston also published anonymously a small book, On the Design of the Book of Ecclesiastes, or the Unreasonableness of Men's Restless Contention for the Present Enjoyments, represented in an English Poem (London, 1691).

    University: Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University

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