Joseph Butler

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Joseph Butler (May 18, 1692 - June 16, 1752) was an English bishop, theologian and philosopher. He was born in Wantage, Berkshire, England.

The son of a Presbyterian linen-draper, he was destined for the ministry of that Church, but in 1714 he decided to enter the Church of England, and went to 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. In 1738 he was made bishop of Bristol. He 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 on Human Nature" (1726) and "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed" (1736). The "Sermons on Human Nature" is commonly studied as an answer to Hobbes' philosophy of ethical egoism. These two books are among the most powerful and original contributions to ethics 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.

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

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