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Collins, Anthony (1676–1729)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DA019-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 28, 2021, from

Article Summary

Anthony Collins was an English freethinker, best-known to philosophers for his reconciliation of liberty and necessity, and his criticisms of Samuel Clarke’s arguments for the immateriality and immortality of the soul. ‘I was early convinced’, Collins wrote, ‘that it was my duty to enquire into, and judge for my self about matters of Religion’ (1727: 4). This is a fair summary of Collins’ lifelong project: to judge the claims of religion as an impartial scientist would judge the claims of a theory, not by ‘the Way of Authority’, but by reason or ‘the Way of private Judgment (1727: 107). Collins took on almost the whole of religion as affirmed and practised in the eighteenth-century Church of England: its philosophical foundations, its theological doctrines, its methods of scriptural interpretation and its views on the politics of church and state. He found most of it wanting. His conclusions were at least deistic and perhaps atheistic (though he remained a practising member of the established church): the irony of his writing and the reactive character of virtually everything he published make it difficult to know for sure.

Citing this article:
Winkler, Kenneth P.. Collins, Anthony (1676–1729), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA019-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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