'The language of the naked facts': Joseph Priestley on language and revealed religion

Kingston, Elizabeth S (2010) 'The language of the naked facts': Joseph Priestley on language and revealed religion. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is usually remembered for his experiments in natural
philosophy and celebrated for his isolation of the gas we now call oxygen. However,
Priestley had a wide range of interests and published extensively on education, history,
politics, political philosophy, language, theology and religion. He dedicated his life to
elucidating a coherent set of epistemological, metaphysical and theological principles
which he believed explained the human mind, the natural world and the nature of God
and revelation. Recent studies of Priestley have emphasised the difficulties that arise
from isolating the various aspects of his thought and the fruitful outcome of uncovering
the many connections between his diverse areas of study. With this in mind, the present
dissertation aims to elucidate the relationship between two aspects of Priestley’s thought
that have not previously been studied together. It examines his theory of language and
argument alongside his work on theology and the evidences of revelation. Chapter One
provides an overview of Priestley’s epistemology, focusing on his work on induction,
judgment and assent. Chapter Two looks at Priestley’s analysis of the role of the
passions in our assent to propositions and the progressive generation of the personality,
while paying particular attention to the origins of figurative language. Chapter Three
examines Priestley’s theory of language development including the relationship
between figurative language and the extension of vocabulary and the close connection
between language and culture. Chapter Four demonstrates that Priestley’s discussion of
the evidences of revealed religion is structured around his theory of assent and
judgment. It also explains how assent to revelation is essential for the generation and
transcendence of the ‘self’. Chapter Five brings all the themes of the dissertation
together in a discussion of Priestley’s rational theology and examines his analysis of
figurative language in scripture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion. Mythology. Rationalism
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2011 06:03
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6291
Google Scholar:4 Citations

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