Tuesday 11 September 2018

John Toland and the Archaeology and Toponymy of Inishowen

The 4th Inishowen Lecture will take place this weekend (Saturday, 15 September) in the Market, House, Clonmany on the Inishowen peninsula, Co. Donegal.

A talk on John Toland and the Archaeology and Toponymy of Inishowen by Dr Brian Lambkin and Dr Kay Muhr will feature among the programme of events. Toland himself hails from the neighbouring townland of Ardagh, a fact that is not forgotten locally.

Further information is available from the Lands of Eogain Facebook page. The full programme for the evening is described below:

Thursday 16 August 2018

Call for Abstracts: Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley

Scholars in any academic discipline are invited to submit abstracts of papers to be presented at the Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley conference, to be held in Trinity College Dublin, 5 and 6 April 2019.

George Berkeley's Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713) are standard texts in the philosophy curricula of most European and American universities. No other Irish philosopher, and no other work of Berkeley's, has achieved this 'canonical' status. However, there was a vibrant philosophical scene in Ireland in Berkeley’s lifetime, to which Berkeley was far from the only contributor. Studying this broader Irish philosophical discussion will improve our understanding of Berkeley and also of early modern philosophy more generally.

The Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley conference will include general exploration of the intellectual culture of early modern Ireland, as well as examination of specific thinkers with significant connections to Ireland active during Berkeley's lifetime (1685–1753). Such figures include Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh (1615–1691); Robert Boyle (1627–1691); Michael Moore (c. 1639–1726); William King (1650–1729); William Molyneux (1656–1698); Edward Synge (1659–1741); Jonathan Swift (1667–1745); John Toland (1670–1722); Peter Browne (d. 1735); and Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746).

Invited speakers will include:
  • Lisa Downing, Professor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, USA
  • Eric Schliesser, Professor of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Kate Davison, Lecturer in Long Eighteenth-Century History, University of Sheffield, UK

Approximately nine additional papers will be selected by anonymous review of submitted abstracts.

We welcome abstracts from scholars in any discipline, addressing one or more of the following issues:
  • The Irish context of Berkeley's philosophy.
  • The philosophical work of other Irish thinkers active during Berkeley's lifetime.
  • The reception within Ireland of other philosophical figures, ideas, and movements.
  • The reception of Irish philosophy outside Ireland.

Particular preference will be given to papers that address figures and/or topics outside the currently recognized philosophical 'canon', including the work of early modern women.

Papers presented at the conference will be published as part of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements series, Cambridge University Press.

Abstracts should be submitted by 15 October, 2018. Full details, including submission instructions, are available online.

Participants and attendees may also be interested in attending Berkeleian Minds: Will and Understanding, to be held at the University of York on 2 and 3 April. Further information available online.

Primary sponsorship for this conference is provided by the Royal Institute of Philosophy, together with the Mind Association. Additional support is provided by the Trinity Long Room Hub Making Ireland Research Theme and the Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Toland's Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews (Book Review)

Book Review: Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1714)

"a work that might well be described as revolutionary"

Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov maintained that, from a historical point of view, we can distinguish two types of men: the ordinary (i.e. one whose sole mission in life would be to procreate and maintain the species numerically) and the extra-ordinary – i.e. those distinguished by the fact that, going beyond the established rules and tradition, they pronounce a new word in their medium, thereby marking a turning point in the advancement of humanity.

The truth of Raskolnikov's theory can be seen in any creative field – e.g. philosophy, whose historical development has been shaped by a series of extraordinary individuals. Now, what is the criterion to discern whether these 'exceptional men' are actually liberators of the spirit and improvers of humanity? The answer to this question is provided by the work of John Toland (1670-1722) in his Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland, On the Same Foot with All Other Nations, written and published in 1714.

The purpose of Toland's essay is to publicly denounce the status of Jews in English society since the revolution of Cromwell, in order to vindicate the recognition of their rights and that they be granted full citizenship, in the same way as had already been done with all established Protestant sects in both Britain and Ireland.
Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (1714)

This defence of the Jews is based on Toland's theory, according to which, every member of a community must participate actively in politics, in order to help improve and make more free the country in which they live. While compliance with the law is essential in any human society, it should not, however, be blind acquiescence. Rather, each free and independent citizen has the responsibility and duty to criticise and propose other laws, which may conform better with the good and happiness of the whole nation.

For this reason, the vindication of the Jewish people carried out in this work is not done with the intention of being 'populist' but, with the sincere belief that one "may serve my Country: and I am inexpressibly pleas'd, that the most effectual way to do so, is the promoting of Humanity, and the doing good to all Mankind."

The reasons upon which Toland argues for naturalisation with full right for the Jews in Britain and Ireland fall into three categories: religious, economic and political.

Firstly, Toland reminds us, in his Dedication, that it is through the Jews that Europeans profess Christianity because, "by them, you are undeniably come to the knowledge of one God, from them you have received the holy Scriptures, of them is descended Moses and the Prophets, with Jesus and all the Apostles."

As regards economics, Toland argued that the presence of Jews in a given territory has always been synonymous with wealth and prosperity, presenting as counter-examples the precarious fate of Spain and Portugal after their expulsion. In this context, Toland echoes xenophobic prejudices of the common people, who claim that foreigners 'take bread out of their mouths', arguing that the fact that more people engaged in the same activities facilitates not only the increase in goods and services but also competition, thereby promoting improved supply and above all, the lowering of retail prices. This is what Toland called the "Rule of More, and Better and Cheaper."

On the other hand, the Irish philosopher decisively combats the prejudice that Jews are exclusively devoted to trade and usury, exposing a series of empirical data that demonstrate their excellence in other areas and indicating that, if the Jews are characterised by their financial work, it is only because throughout history they have not been allowed to perform any other activity.

Next, Toland denounces all historical persecution and accusations that have been carried out against the Jews (cf. p. 20-24), highlighting how they were rooted in superstitions and in prejudices introduced by priests, especially when they were allowed to participate in and decide on policy. Toland graphically defined the situation when, relying on another defender of the rights of the Jews, the Italian Simon Luzzatto, he classifies the historical enemies of the Jewish people as follows:
"These are first the zealots, under whom may be listed Priests and Hypocrites; secondly Politicians, comprehending corrupt States-men, and drivers of private Interest; and thirdly the vulgar, who, under colour of religion or the public good, are acted, animated, and deluded by the other two, the better to serve their own sinister purposes."

The consequences of hatred of the Jews can be observed, not only in societies that have expelled them from their midst but also, in those in which they live to enjoy certain freedoms, such as Turkey or Poland. Thus, according to Toland, in these countries, although the Jews have properties and schools, "yet they are treated little better than Dogs in the first place, and are often expos'd in the last to unspeakable Calamities."

Once the traditional prejudices against the Jews have been confronted and rejected, Toland justifies their necessary naturalisation, arguing that, unlike other groups, Jews would not get mixed up in political or religious issues and would support "Liberty of Conscience" putting them on the same side as "Liberty and the Constitution". Moreover, the Jews would never betray their host country by obeying a foreign authority or fighting for another country, since they don't have one and so, their faithfulness would be guaranteed and they would work for peace and social cohesion.

Despite the economic and socio-political advantages of naturalisation of the Jews in Britain and Ireland, Toland is aware that his proposal to end the "strange stories of the danger of Judaizing" will not be welcome within certain sections of society. However, he knows that he has done the right thing, as a member of a community and above all, as a philosopher:
"I own that thus much I thought necessary to write, for the common benefit on this uncommon subject; and if I shou'd not meet with a general applause (in which case I shall not at all be disappointed) yet I cannot but enjoy the particular satisfaction of having dischaged what I believ'd to be my duty: since with all wise and honest men, Humanity and good Nature are sure to atone for any defect in my Politics."

With these words, Toland ends a work that might well be described as revolutionary, since it seeks to address and eliminate a historical bias which has been – and still is today – a heritage not only of the public at large but also, of the intellectuals.

The unconditional struggle against all forms of prejudice, in order to free the human spirit, is the main characteristic of the philosophy of John Toland; a feature that distinguishes him from the vast majority of currently considered great philosophers and provides the key to understanding why he is a virtually forgotten thinker.

Copyright © Dr Jordi Morillas, 2013

This review has been translated from the Spanish original, which was first published in Daímon. Revista Internacional de Filosofía, nº 59, 2013. We are grateful to the author for sharing his insight and allowing us to reproduce this article.
Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland, On the Same Foot with All Other Nations by John Toland (1670-1722) was first published in 1714 and has been available over the years in various facsimile editions. It was re-published in a modern, annotated edition in 2012 by The Manuscript Publisher and is available to buy online, in print and e-book (Kindle) editions.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

John Toland Commemorative Stamp of Approval

Urgent Appeal
– seeking the commemorative stamp of approval –

Each year, An Post (the Irish postal service) produces, on behalf of the Irish Government, a programme of special and commemorative stamps. The process of drawing up the Stamp Programme for 2020 is now underway and suggestions that might be included in the 2020 programme are currently being accepted.

The 350th anniversary of John Toland's birth falls on 30 November 2020. If you are interested in championing the case for a special commemorative stamp to be issued, honouring the life and work of Irish-born rationalist philosopher, John Toland (thereby assuring for him, a stamp of approval that was mostly denied during his lifetime), you can send a personal submission, online or by post (see below). Hurry though! The latest date for submissions is this coming Friday, 30 March, 2018.

Entries can be submitted online or, by by the traditional method of a letter in an envelope (Do people still do that?) addressed to:
Stamp Suggestion Programme 2020
Ground Floor
An Post
O'Connell Street Lower
Dublin 1
D01 F5P2
Postage is free within Éire-Ireland (Republic of Ireland). If you are sending from outside of this jurisdiction, please make sure you put the correct postage on your envelope. Given the deadline that is looming (this coming Friday, 30 March, if you didn't get it before), you might be just as well to submit your proposal online.

If anything comes of this, we'll keep you posted!

Thursday 22 March 2018

The Legacy of John Toland

A greater part of the task assumed by a web-based project dedicated to celebrating the life, work and times of John Toland (1670-1722), must be to elucidate, to elaborate, to explain who the subject matter was, his historical role and importance, together with what has lived on once his natural life expired. This is not altogether an easy task, for the simple reason that, outside of his writings, not a lot is known about John Toland. Although he has drawn interest across a wide spectrum of disciplines and beliefs, has formed the focus of various studies, his life and work has not yet been subject to the kind of scrutiny that could be described as detailed or comprehensive.

The podcast below, carries an interview given by Dr Ian Leask to The Irish Times, which represents a certain summation that is also highly digestible. He goes into various details about Toland, his life, his ideas, his influence on others, his historical role and importance.

Dr Ian Leask is a lecturer in Theology and Philosophy at Dublin City University. He is editor of a recent edition of Toland's Letters to Serena, published by Four Courts Press, Dublin in 2013.

Sunday 11 March 2018

Introducing a New Website Dedicated To ...

John Toland (1670-1722)
– Irish-born Rationalist Philosopher and Freethinker –

John Toland, Irish-born rationalist philosopher and freethinker, died on this day (11 March) in 1722. "If you would know more of him, search his writings," he wrote in a self-penned epitaph that appeared a few days later.

Toland is best remembered today as a philosopher, freethinker, author, pamphleteer who made important contributions to the various fields of philosophy – in what today would be regarded as both the natural and social sciences.

We choose this day to formally unveil a new website dedicated to Toland, his life and work. This website will serve as a free online resource and repository of knowledge pertaining to his writings, the times in which he lived and to the social movement that he, along with others, spearheaded and represented, with particular reference to the enduring legacy and effect.

There is a lot that has been said about John Toland and probably a lot more that could be said. This website will serve the purpose of ensuring that nothing that should be said will go unsaid. That is why this is a free website, open to anyone who may wish to contribute. Furthermore, we invite those who may wish to contribute to get in touch with us.

The fact that this website is being formally unveiled on the anniversary of Toland's death is not coincidental. In fact, the date has been deliberately chosen. The 350th anniversary of Toland's birth will be observed on 30 November 2020 and the 300th anniversary of his death falls less than two years later, in 2022. We particularly encourage anyone who has an interest in these anniversaries to get in touch with us, to ensure that they are properly observed and accorded the respect that they are due. We will do our best (without fear or favour) to publicise events that are taking place, using networks and channels of communication within our reach.

Further details about this web project will be unveiled in due course. If you are interested, we encourage you to keep in touch – subscribe using the facilities that are available or sign up for e-mail alerts. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you would know more, follow us.

Monday 12 February 2018

Submit a Story

Got some news or an idea for a story that you would like to see covered here? We would love to hear from you. Articles and other material with a view to publication (including press releases) may be conveyed, by e-mail, to the Editor.

Milestones and Anniversaries

Further Reading

  • An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover: Sent to a Minister of State in Holland by John Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2013)
  • Letters to Serena by John Toland (Four Courts Press, 2013)
  • Nazerenus by John Toland (Voltaire Foundation, 1999)
  • Physic without Physicians byJohn Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2020)
  • Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland by John Toland (The Manuscript Publisher, 2013)