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Newton's Secularized Onto-theology versus Descartes' and Leibniz', or on the Importance of Unifying Tendencies in the Secularization-process

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It is now a communis opinio that Newton's metaphysics was highly theologically inspired. I will refer to this intertwinement by using the word “onto-theology,” i.e. a metaphysical system that is mainly derived from some fundamental theological assumptions. I will present the constituents of Newton's onto-theology. One important, but often neglected stratum of Newton's metaphysics is the “secularization of God.” Newton, then, was not only a reformer in science, he also was a defender of a more rationalized, i.e. secularized, conception of God. As we will see, God and all other existing entities exist on the same ontological level. Newtonian metaphysics can thus be seen as the expression of how religious attitudes adapted themselves to or secularized themselves in a world of growing complexity wherein the scientific outlook became more and more central. This analysis has implications for the secularization-debate. It will be argued that the secularization-process not only involved differentiating tendencies between the profane and the secular (as is widely accepted by the differentiation-thesis ), but that unifying tendencies (exemplified by Newton's unified onto-theology) were equally important.
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Keywords: Early modern metaphysics; Isaac Newton's theology and ontology; Scientific Revolution; Secularization(-debate)

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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