Norris, John

Norris, John (1), an English divine and Platonic philosopher, was born at Collingborne Kingston, Wiltshire, in 1657. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he graduated, and of which he became fellow in 1680. He was an ardent admirer of Plato, and translated Robert Waryng's Effigies amoris

into English under the title of The Picture of Love Unveiled (Lond. 1682, 12mo). This work brought him into relations with Henry More (q.v.), the most eminent Platonic philosopher of England at that time, alnd with two distinguished women — lady Masham and Mrs. Astell; but when, a few years afterwards, the tendency of Locke's philosophy to one extreme of belief provoked a controversy which traveled the length and breadth of Europe, he was found with the opposite party — followers of Des Cartes and Malebranche. In 1689 he was appointed to the curacy of Newton St. Lo, and in 1691 was transferred to that of Bemerton, near Sarum, where he died in 1711. Norris was a fine writer for strength and thought, and his sentiments are commonly just. "His philosophical activity," says Tulloch, "only commenced with the termination of the Cambridge movement. He carried it forward to another age, but he did not himself belong to it. Norris, indeed, stands by himself in the history of English philosophy, the solitary Platonist of the Revolution aera, who handed on the torch of idealism into the next century, till it was grasped by the vigorous and graceful hands of Berkeley. It may be difficult to trace any direct connection between the author of the Principles of Human Knowledge and the author of The Theory of the Ideal, or Intelligent World. There may have been no indebtedness on the part of the Dublin idealist to the idealist of Bemerton, but the impulse of thought is the same; the line of Platonic speculation runs forward from one to the other. Norris has completely passed out of sight, and Berkeley is a familiar name to every student of philosophy. But Norris, although half forgotten, is really as striking and significant a figure in the history of English philosophy. He was an idealist of the purest type, sustained by the loftiest inspiration." (Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, 2:453. 454). His principal works are, An Account of Reason and Faith in Relation to the Mysteries of Christianity (London, 1697, 8vo), written in refutation of Toland's Christianity not Mysterious. "He attempted to prove," says Franck, "not that reason deceives us, for if this were so there would be no longer any distinction between truth and error, but that it is not sufficient for us in the measure we possess, not being so extensive as truth itself, or as the truths we need to know for our guidance and our support and that, besides our instinctive and demonstrative knowledge, we need revelation. We are not to choose between reason and some other power contradicting her assertions, but only to examine whether any dogma in which we are asked to believe is a revealed dogma or not; whether it is to be regarded as a result of the human mind, or whether there are historical proofs that it emanated from a divine source, and has been imparted to us by supernatural means." Reason, according to Norris, is simply the exact measure of truth; i.e. divine reason, which differs only from human reason in degree, not in nature. In his Essay towards the Theory of the Ideal, or Intelligible World (Lond. 1701-4, 2 vols. 8vo), to which we have referred above in the quotation from Tulloch, Norris gives a complete exposition of Malebranche's system — the theory that we perceive all things in God, whose thoughts, to use such a term, are our ideal forms — which he greatly admired, and he refutes with great power the assertions of Locke and of the sensualists. Besides the above, he wrote Hierocles upon the Golden Verses of the Pythagoreans (Oxf. 1682, 8vo): — An Idea of Happiness (Lond. 1683, 4to): — A Carnival of Knaves, or Whiggism plainly Displayed and Burlesqued (ibid. 1683, 4to):Tractatus adversus reprobationis absolute decretum (ibid. 1683, 4to): — Poems and Discourses occasionally written (ibid. 1684, 8vo): — A Collection of Miscellanies, consisting of Poems, Essays, Discourses, and Letters (Oxf. 1687, 8vo; 5th ed. Lond. 1716, 8vo) — The Theory and Regulation of Love, a Moral Essay, in two Parts; to which are added Letters, Philosophical and Moral, between the Author and Dr. Henry More (Oxf. 1688, 8vo): — Reason and Religion, or the Grounds and Measures of Devotion considered from the Nature of God and the Nature of Man (Lond. 1689, 8vo): — Upon the Conduct of Human Life with Reference to the Study of Learning and Knowledge (ibid. 1690-91, 8vo): — Christian Blessedness (ibid. 1690, 8vo); in 1691 he wrote a defense of this work, which had been attacked by the Separatists: — Practical Discourses upon several Divine Subjects (ibid. 1691-98, 4 vols. 8vo; often reprinted): — Two Treatises concerning the Divine Light (ibid. 1692, 8vo); directed against the Quakers: — Spiritual Counsel, or the Father's Advice to his Children (ibid. 1694, 8vo): — Letters concerning the Love of God (ibid. 1695, 1705, 8vo): — A Philosophical Discourse concerning the Natural Immortality of the Soul (ibid. 1708, 8vo); Dodwell wrote an answer to this work at the close of his Natural Mortality of the Human Soul (1708), and pretends to prove his position by texts of Scripture: — Treatise concerning Christian Prudence (ibid. 1710, 8vo): — Treatise concerning Humility (ibid. 1710, 8vo). See Biogriaphia Britannica, s.v.; Chalmers, General Biog. Dict. s.v.; Franck, Diet. des sciences philosophiques, vol. iv; Darling, Cycl. Bibliog. 2:2211; Lewes, Hist. of Philos. vol. ii; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. 2:89, 366; Tulloch, Rat. Theol. in England in the 17th Century, 2:227, 443, 452 sq.; Middieton, Life, i. 19, 64, 75; 176, 374, 378, 481; 2:71, 170, 228, 242; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2:183, 193, 225, 227.

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