Joseph Priestley, an eighteenth-century British theologian and natural philosopher known for his theories on gases, most famously the discovery of "dephlogisticated air," now known as oxygen rejected Calvinist doctrines of a vengeful God and instead believed strongly in a benevolent God evidenced in man's observations and experience. This conviction led him a set of religious writings: Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, wherein he sought to combat the ignorance and prejudices of the philosophical unbelievers and atheists he had met. Throughout his career, Priestley, who aimed to merge his theological beliefs with his scientific studies, published several metaphysical texts, which later influenced utilitarianism.

In "Signs of the Times", Carlyle suggests that all metaphysics has become material philosophy that has departed from anything spiritual. Carlyle includes in his criticism the philosophy of Common Sense, about which both Reid and Priestley wrote. According to Carlyle, nobody cared about any of these schools of thought any more, and people have aabandoned Hume's atheism and fatalism; likewise they have forgotten Priestley's contrasting work that insisted that materialism and determinism could be reconciled with theism.


"Joseph Priestley." Wikipedia. 2009. March 30, 2009..

"Joseph Priestley." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2009. March 30, 2009.

Schofield, R. E., The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.

Last modified 1 April 2009