Abstract: Seventeenth-century “natural religion” in England included the work of many theologians and scientists who comprised a close-knit discourse community shaped by a common theology and many similarities in intellectual outlook. They developed a complex rhetoric compounded of probabilistic reasoning and a wide range of figurative conventions for the argument from design. These writings offer a rich intertext of discursive practices which are more classically rooted, more intuitive and imaginative in appeal, and simultaneously more probabilistic and less demonstrative in reasoning, than has generally been assumed. This essay focuses on the imaginative, figurative dimensions of this work, identifying its primary classical sources and its sanctions in the rhetorical theory of the time.
- Copyright 1994, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric