Category: All text of Paley Natural Theology

Table of Contents

Foreword 1854 Publisher’s Note Preface by John Ware Note by James Paxton Introduction by William Paley State of the Argument State of the Argument, continued Application of the Argument Of the succession of Plants and Animals Application of the Argument, continued The Argument cumulative Of the Mechanical and Immechanical Parts and Functions of Animals and […]


“I do not think I hardly ever admired a book more than Paley’s Natural Theology: I could almost formerly have said it by heart.” Charles Darwin, 1859. Letter to John Lubbock. The volume you hold in your hand is not some dusty, outdated text.  True, much of the science has been refined since it was […]

1854 Publisher’s Notice

Several years since the publishers of this valuable and very popular work engaged the services of Dr. John Ware, of this city, to prepare an improved edition, by the addition of forty elegant pages of the illustrations of Paxton, with references to the same in the text; extensive notes, original and selected; a vocabulary of […]

Preface to the Revised American Edition

The present edition of the Natural Theology of Dr. Paley was undertaken with the view of making this admirable work more extensively useful than it could ever be under the form in which it has been usually circulated.  A great proportion of those who have read it must have sensibly felt the disadvantage under which […]

Note by James Paxton

To the Honorable and Right Reverend Shute Barrington, LL. D Lord Bishop of Durham. My Lord, To your suggestion the world is indebted for the existence of Dr. Paley’s valuable work on Natural Theology.  The universal and permanent esteem in which it has been held in the country, and its favorable reception in France, even […]

Introduction by William Paley

To the Right Honorable and Right Reverend Shute Barrington, LL. IV. Lord Bishop of Durham.   My Lord, The following work was undertaken at your Lordship’s recommendation; and amongst other motives, for the purpose of making the most acceptable return I could make for a great and important benefit conferred upon me. It may be […]

State of the Argument

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose […]

State of the Argument Continued

Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch, should after sometime, discover, that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed  in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing, in the course of its movement, another watch like itself, (the thing is conceivable;) that it contained within […]

Application of the Argument

This is atheism: for every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation. I mean, that the contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances […]

Of the Succession of Plants and Animals

The generation of the animal no more accounts for the contrivance of the eye or ear, than, upon the supposition stated in a preceding chapter, the production of a watch by the motion and mechanism of a former watch, would account for the skill and intention evidenced in the watch so produced; than it would account […]

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