Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Rob Iliffe

Newton and the perils of the imagination

In the 17th century, there were two contradictory attitudes to the imagination or ‘phantasy’. For many it was valued as the source of wit and invention; but for others it was the basis of deception, superstition, and mental illness. It was John Calvin, a century earlier, who had warned that the mind was a dungeon and a factory of idols. English puritan writers followed in his wake, cautioning against the seductive tendencies of the unregenerate imagination

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