Monday, June 07, 2004

Living, Moving, and Being

I've read somewhere that the most quoted verse in the Middle Ages was Wisdom 11:20: "But you have ordered all things by measure and number and weight." A good candidate for the early modern counterpart would be Acts 17:28: "In Him we live and move and have our being". Someone should write a brief history of how this verse contributes to philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some contributions toward such a history:

* Hobbes uses the verse in Leviathan to argue that God must be a body.

* Malebranche uses it in support of the vision-in-God theory of ideas in The Search after Truth Book III, Part II, Chapter 6 (LO 235). I'm sure John Norris uses it somewhere, too.

* Henry More uses it (somewhere).

* Berkeley quotes it several times, e.g., in both the Principles and the Three Dialogues (Dialogue 2).

* Does Jonathan Edwards quote it? I suspect he would.

* Jonathan Swift uses it in his satire, A Tale of a Tub.

* It is quoted in support of Newton's theory of space in the General Scholium.

* Kant uses it in the Opus Postumum (22:118).

One thing that strikes me about this preliminary cast is that in several cases the verse is used to argue some sort of relation between God and space. This would be worth looking into, and no doubt would say a great deal about the 17th and 18th centuries. Berkeley and Malebranche use it to support their view of ideas. Since they advocate, in different ways, the view that God is (in a sense) our mind's 'environment' (the public, intelligible world, as Malebranche calls it).


  1. Leo Carton Mollica11:31 AM

    I remember Spinoza also using the quote in a letter to defend his God-as-the-unique-substance position.

  2. branemrys8:20 PM

    Leo, I think you're right. I need to revisit this issue with some updated information at some point.

  3. Leo Carton Mollica10:05 PM

    Hunting around on the internet, it looks as though the allusion is from a letter on theology to Oldenburg.

    Thanks, by the way, for the link to Dormitive Virtue.

  4. branemrys2:56 PM

    I'd been intending to put one up for a while, but kept forgetting whenever I was actually doing any revisions to the blogroll.


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