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WILLIAM FLEMING - 1890 - Table of contents

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H- I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W  

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden


Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





ATHEISM (α priv., and θεός, God).—The doctrine that there is no God.


The term is properly applied to every theory of the universe which does not postulate an Intelligent First Cause. Every Materialistic Theory is Atheistic.

Under this title falls to be included the theory which seeks to account for existence by reference to matter and motion, first attributed to Diagoras of Melos (Ueberweg's History, I. 80; Schwegler, p. 26); and the early elemental theories of Thales, Anaximenes, and Heraclitus.

Atheism has been distinguished from Anti-theism; and the former has been supposed to imply merely the non-recognition of God, while the latter asserts His non-existence. This distinction is founded on the difference between unbelief and disbelief (Chalmers, Nat. Theol., I. 58), and its validity is admitted in so far as it discriminates merely between sceptical and dogmatic atheism, (Buchanan, Faith in God, I. 396).

"The verdict of the atheist on the doctrine of a God, is only that it is not proven. It is not that it is disproven. He is but an atheist. He is not an anti-theist" (Chalmers, ut supra).

Plato, treating of Atheism as a disorder of the soul (ταύτην τὴν νόσον), says:—" There have always been persons, more or less numerous, who have had the same disorder. I have known many of them, and can tell you this, that no one who had taken up in youth this opinion, that the Gods do not exist, ever continued in the same until he was old" (Laws, bk. X. p. 888; Jowett's Plato, 1st ed., IV. 398).

"To believe nothing of a designing principle or mind, nor any cause, measure, or rule of things but chance, so that in nature neither the interest of the whole, nor of any particulars, can be said to be in the least designed, pursued, or aimed at, is to be a perfect atheist" (Shaftesbury, Inquiry Concerning Virtue, bk. I. pt. I. sec. 2).

Hi soli sunt athei qui mundum rectoris sapientis consilio negant in initio constitutum utque in omni tempore administrari (Hutcheson, Metaphysics, pt. III. cap. I.).

Atheism is erroneously applied to Spinoza's system, which is at the opposite extreme from Atheism.— V. ACOSMISM. Equally unwarrantable is it to describe the theory of Evolution as Atheistic. As a theory, it leaves untouched the question of the origin of existence. Mr Darwin says:—"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms, or into one; and that whilst the planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, have been and are being evolved (Origin of Species, p. 577).

By theological writers of the 16th century, the name of Atheism is applied to the unbelief of such persons as Pomponatius; and in the 17th it is used by Bacon (Essay on Atheism), Milton (Paradise Lost, bk. VI.), and Bunyan (Pilgrim) to imply general unbelief. Toward the end of the same century it is found, e.g., in Kortholt (De Tribus Imputoribus, 1680), to include Deism such as that of Hobbes, as well as a Pantheistic scheme like Spinoza's. Tillotson (Sermon on Atheism) and Bentley (Boyle Lectures) use the word more exactly; the introduction of the term Deism induced in the writers of the 18th century a more limited and exact use of the former term.



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