chapter  11
20 Pages

The Books and Times of Anthony Collins (1676–1729), Free-thinker, Radical Reader and Independent Whig

ByGiovanni Tarantino

This chapter mentions that moral determinism and the primacy of the Law are two key elements in Anthony Collins radicalism. In A Discourse concerning Ridicule and Irony, Collins argues that the use of debunking irony, which wisely presupposes the fallibility of any opinion, is a healthy antidote to the long-faced seriousness of the many custodians of the truth. Collins had an extensive collection of Greek and Latin classics, numerous historical works, and treatises on political and constitutional topics, English literary classics and biographies. The presence of illicit literature in the libraries of Collins, Benjamin Furly and Eugene Prince of Savoy, the three men who owned the most dangerous collections in Europe', might have been a symptom rather than a cause of a subversive intellectual disposition. Collins reflections on the issues of evil, necessity, conventional status of ethics and the materiality of the soul all seem instead to move in the direction of a philosophical negation of the existence of God.