Joseph Butler

Joseph Butler

:"You might also be looking for Joseph G. Butler, Jr., a philanthropist and historian or Joseph Campbell Butler, founding member of The Lovin' Spoonful"

Infobox Saint
name=Joseph Butler
birth_date=May 18, 1692
death_date=June 16, 1752
feast_day=June 16
venerated_in=Anglican Communion

death_place=Bath, Somerset

Infobox Philosopher
region = Western Philosophy
era = 18th-century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

name = Joseph Butler
birth = May 18, 1692 O.S. in Wantage, Berkshire, England
school_tradition = British Empiricism, Christian philosophy, egoism
influences = Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Francis Hutcheson
influenced = Adam Smith, William Paley, Jeremy Bentham, David Seabury, C. S. Lewis, John Warwick Montgomery

Joseph Butler (May 18, 1692 O.S. – June 16, 1752) was an English bishop, theologian, apologist, and philosopher. He was born in Wantage in the English county of Berkshire (now Oxfordshire). He is known, among other things, for his critique of Thomas Hobbes's egoism and John Locke's theory of personal identity. During his life and after his death, Butler influenced many philosophers, including David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith. [White (2006), §8.]


The son of a presbyterian linen-draper, he was destined for the ministry of that church, and—along with future archbishop Thomas Secker—entered Samuel Jones's dissenting academy at Gloucester (later Tewkesbury) for that purpose. Whilst there, he entered into a secret correspondence with the conformist controversialist Samuel Clarke; his letters were taken to Gloucester post office by Secker, who also collected Clarke's responses from there. Clarke later published this correspondence. In 1714, Butler decided to enter the Church of England, and went to Oriel College,Oxford. After holding various other preferments, he became rector of the rich living of Stanhope.

In 1736 he was made the head chaplain of King George II's wife Caroline, on the advice of Lancelot Blackburne. In 1738 he was appointed bishop of Bristol. He is said (apocryphally) to have declined an offer to become the archbishop of Canterbury in 1747. He became Bishop of Durham in 1750.

He is most famous for his "Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel" (1726) and "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed" (1736). The "Analogy" is an important work of Christian apologetics in the history of the controversies over Deism. Butler's apologetic concentrated on "the general analogy between the principles of divine government, as set forth by the biblical revelation, and those observable in the course of nature, [an analogy which] leads us to the warrantable conclusion that there is one Author of both." ["Butler, Joseph." "Encyclopedia Britannica", 1911 ed.] Butler's arguments combined a cumulative case for faith using probabilistic reasoning to persuade Deists and others to reconsider orthodox faith. Aspects of his apologetic reasoning are reflected in the writings of twentieth century Christian apologists such as C. S. Lewis and John Warwick Montgomery.

The "Sermons on Human Nature" is commonly studied as an answer to Hobbes' philosophy of ethical egoism. These two books are considered by his proponents to be among the most powerful and original contributions to ethics, apologetics and theology which have ever been made. They depend for their effect entirely upon the force of their reasoning, for they have no graces of style.

Today, he is commonly cited for the blunt epigram, "Every thing is what it is, and not another thing."."

Butler died in 1752 in Bath, Somerset. His admirers praise him as an excellent man, and a diligent and conscientious churchman. Though indifferent to general literature, he had some taste in the fine arts, especially architecture.

In the calendars of the Anglican communion his feast day is June 16.


*"Several letters to the Reverend Dr. Clarke", 1716, 1719, 1725
*"Fifteen sermons preached at the Rolls Chapel", 1726, 1729, 1736, 1749, 1759, 1765, 1769, 1774, 1792
*"The analogy of religion", 1736, 1740, 1750, 1754, 1764, 1765, 1771, 1775, 1785, 1788, 1791, 1793, 1796, 1798
*"A sermon preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts", 1739
*"A sermon preached before the Right Honourable the Lord-Mayor", 1740
*"A sermon preached before the House of Lords", 1741, 1747
*"A sermon preached in the parish-church of Christ-Church", London, 1745
*"A sermon, preached before His Grace Charles Duke of Richmond, Lenox, and Aubigny, president", 1748, 1751
*"Six sermons preached upon publick occasions", 1749
*"A catalogue of the libraries [...] ", 1753
*"A charge delivered to the clergy at the primary visitation of the diocese of Durham", 1751, 1786

ee also

* Altruism
* Benevolence
* Christian philosophy

External links

* [ Joseph Butler] - entry of "The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy".


References and Further Reading

* "Butler, Joseph." "Encyclopedia Britannica", 1911 ed.
* Brown, Colin (1984). "Miracles and the Critical Mind", Paternoster, Exeter UK/William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.
* Craig, William Lane (1985). "The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus During the Deist Controversy", Texts and Studies in Religion, Volume 23. Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York & Queenston, Ontario.
* Dulles, Avery (1999). "A History of Apologetics", Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon.
* Ramm, Bernard (1962). "Joseph Butler," "Varieties of Christian Apologetics: An Introduction to the Christian Philosophy of Religion", Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, pp. 107-124.
* Rurak, James (1980). "Butler's "Analogy": A Still Interesting Synthesis of Reason and Revelation," "Anglican Theological Review" 62 (October) pp. 365-381.
* White, David E. (2006). " [ Joseph Butler] ," "The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy", J. Fieser & B. Dowden (eds.).

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