Frases de Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley Foto
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Joseph Priestley

Fecha de nacimiento: 13. Marzo 1733
Fecha de muerte: 6. Febrero 1804

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Joseph Priestley fue un destacado científico y teólogo del siglo XVIII, clérigo disidente, filósofo, educador y teórico político, que publicó más de 150 obras. Suele ser considerado como el descubridor del oxígeno, aunque este hecho también les ha sido atribuido, con cierto fundamento, a Carl Wilhelm Scheele y Antoine Lavoisier. En todo caso, fue uno de los primeros en aislarlo en forma gaseosa, y el primero en reconocer su papel fundamental para los organismos vivos.

Durante su vida, Priestley gozó de una considerable reputación científica, firmemente asentada en su invención del agua carbonatada, sus escritos sobre electricidad y su descubrimiento de varios "aires" , siendo el más famoso el que Priestley llamó "aire desflogistizado" . A raíz de su descubrimiento del oxígeno, elaboró la llamada teoría del flogisto, que pese a que fue rápidamente demostrada como errónea por Lavoisier y sus seguidores, Priestley siguió defendiendo con determinación durante toda su vida. Ello le llevó a rechazar, al menos implícitamente, lo que se convertiría en la revolución química de la mano de Lavoisier, lo cual, ligado a sus ideas políticas radicales, afectaría gravemente a su prestigio científico al final de su vida, y lo convertiría en blanco de grandes críticas.

La concepción de la ciencia que tenía Priestley fue una parte integrante de su teología y siempre trató de fusionar el racionalismo de la Ilustración con el teísmo cristiano. En sus textos de metafísica, Priestley trató de combinar el teísmo, el materialismo y el determinismo, un proyecto que ha sido calificado como "audaz y original". Creía que una correcta comprensión del mundo natural lograrían un progreso humano y, finalmente, se originaría el milenio cristiano. Uno de los aspectos más destacados de Priestley fue su generosidad científica: creía firmemente en el intercambio libre y abierto de ideas, lo cual le llevó a desaprovechar la potencialidad comercial de muchos de sus descubrimientos, como el del agua carbonatada. Abogó incansablemente por la tolerancia religiosa, y reclamó la igualdad de derechos en Inglaterra para los religiosos disidentes. Sus concepciones teológicas lo llevaron a ayudar a fundar el unitarismo en Inglaterra. El carácter polémico de las publicaciones de Priestley, combinado con su abierto apoyo a la Independencia de Estados Unidos primero y posteriormente, con una mayor fuerza, a la Revolución Francesa le originaron una desconfianza tanto pública y gubernamental. En 1791 una turba furiosa asaltó su residencia de Birmingham y la incendió, obligándolo a huir primero a Londres y luego a los Estados Unidos, a donde emigró en 1794 invitado por algunos de los padres fundadores del país. Pasó los últimos diez años de su vida viviendo en Northumberland County, Pensilvania.

Gran estudioso y maestro durante toda su vida, Priestley también hizo importantes contribuciones a la pedagogía, incluyendo la publicación de la obra fundacional de la gramática inglesa y la invención de la historiografía de la ciencia moderna. Estos escritos educativos fueron algunas de las obras más populares de Priestley; su Historia de la Electricidad siguió usándose como manual sobre el tema cien años después de su fallecimiento. Su obra de metafísica tuvo la influencia más duradera: eminentes filósofos como Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, y Herbert Spencer la tomaron como una de las principales fuentes del utilitarismo.

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Frases Joseph Priestley

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„It is the earnest wish of my heart, that your minds may be well established in the sound principles of religious knowledge, because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a sufficient foundation of a virtuous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: It is the earnest wish of my heart, that your minds may be well established in the sound principles of religious knowledge, because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a sufficient foundation of a virtuous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death. A mind destitute of knowledge (and, comparatively speaking, no kind of knowledge, besides that of religion, deserves the name) is like a field on which no culture has been bestowed, which, the richer it is, the ranker weeds it will produce, If nothing good be sown in it, it will be dccupied by plants that are useless or noxious. Vol. I : The Dedication (March 1772)

„Whereas the whole business of philosophy, diversified as it is, is but one; it being one and the same great scheme, that all philosophers, of all ages and nations, have been conducting, from the beginning of the world“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: Great conquerors, we read, have been both animated, and also, in a great measure, formed by reading the exploits of former conquerors. Why may not the same effect be expected from the history of philosophy to philosophers? May not even more be expected in this case? The wars of many of those conquerors, who received this advantage from history, had no proper connection with former wars: they were only analogous to them. Whereas the whole business of philosophy, diversified as it is, is but one; it being one and the same great scheme, that all philosophers, of all ages and nations, have been conducting, from the beginning of the world; so that the work being the same, the. labours of one are not only analogous to those of of another, but in an immediate manner subservient to them; and one philosopher succeeds another in the same field; as one Roman proconsul succeeded another in carrying on the same war, and pursuing the same conquests, in the same country. In this case, an intimate knowledge of what has been done before us cannot but greatly facilitate our future progress, if it be not absolutely necessary to it. Preface

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„I hope that this account of myself will not be without its use to those who may come after me, and especially in promoting virtue and piety, which, I hope I may say, it has been my care to practise myself, as it has been my business to inculcate them upon others.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: Having thought it right to leave behind me some account of my friends and benefactors, it is in a manner necessary that I also give some account of myself; and as the like has been done by many persons, and for reasons which posterity has approved, I make no further apology for following their example. If my writings in general have been useful to my contemporaries, I hope that this account of myself will not be without its use to those who may come after me, and especially in promoting virtue and piety, which, I hope I may say, it has been my care to practise myself, as it has been my business to inculcate them upon others. Memoirs of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestly (1809). p. 1

„Respect a parliamentary king, and chearfully pay all parliamentary taxes; but have nothing to do with a parliamentary religion, or a parliamentary God.
Religious rights, and religious liberty, are things of inestimable value.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: Respect a parliamentary king, and chearfully pay all parliamentary taxes; but have nothing to do with a parliamentary religion, or a parliamentary God. Religious rights, and religious liberty, are things of inestimable value. For these have many of our ancestors suffered and died; and shall we, in the sunshine of prosperity, desert that glorious cause, from which no storms of adversity or persecution could make them swerve? Let us consider if as a duty of the first rank with respect to moral obligation, to transmit to our posterity, and provide, as far as we can, for transmitting, unimpaired, to the latest generations, that generous zeal for religion and liberty, which makes the memory of our forefathers so truly illustrious. Vol. I : The Dedication (March 1772)

„From the writings of Alhazen and these observations and experiments of Bacon together, it is not improbable that some monks gradually hit upon the construction of spectacles“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: In his Opus Majus he demonstrates, that if a transparent body, interposed between the eye and an object, be convex towards the eye, the object will appear magnified. This observation our author certainly had from Alhazen... this writer [Bacon] gives us figures, representing the progress of rays of light through his spherical segment, as well as endeavours to give reasons why objects are magnified... From the writings of Alhazen and these observations and experiments of Bacon together, it is not improbable that some monks gradually hit upon the construction of spectacles, to which Bacon's lesser segment, not withstanding his mistake concerning it, was a nearer approach than Alhazen's... Whoever they were that pursued the discoveries of Bacon, they probably observed, that a very small convex glass, when held at a greater distance from a book, would magnify the letters more than when it was placed close to them, in which position only Bacon seemed to have used it. In the next place, they might try whether two of these small segments of a sphere placed together, or a glass convex on both sides, would not magnify more than one of them. They would then find, that two of these glasses, one for each eye, would answer the purpose of reading better than one; and lastly they might find, that different degrees of convexity, suited different persons. It is certain that spectacles were well known in the 13th century, and not long before.... It would certainly have been a great satisfaction to us to have been able to trace the actual steps in the progress of this most useful invention, without which most persons who have a taste for reading must have had the melancholy prospect of passing a very dull and joyless old age; and must have been deprived of the pleasure of entertaining themselves by conversing with the absent and the dead, when they were no longer capable of acting their part among the living. Telescopes and microscopes are to be numbered among the superfluities of life when compared to spectacles, which may now be ranked almost among the necessities of it; since the arts of reading and writing are almost universal. Period I To the Revival of Letters in Erope

„The mind of man will never be able to contemplate the being, perfections, and providence of God without meeting with inexplicable difficulties.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: The mind of man will never be able to contemplate the being, perfections, and providence of God without meeting with inexplicable difficulties. We may find sufficient reason for acquiescing in the darkness which involves these great subjects, but we must never expect to see them set in a perfectly clear light. But notwithstanding this, we may know enough of the divine being, and of his moral government, to make us much better and happier beings than we could be without such knowledge; and even the consideration of the insuperable difficulties referred to above is not without its use, as it tends to impress the mind with sentiments of reverence, humility, and submission. Vol. I : Preface (1772)

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„The mind of man can never be wholly barren. Through our whole lives we are subject to successive impressions; for, either new ideas are continually flowing in, or traces of the old ones are marked deeper.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: The mind of man can never be wholly barren. Through our whole lives we are subject to successive impressions; for, either new ideas are continually flowing in, or traces of the old ones are marked deeper. If, therefore, you be not acquiring good principles be assured that you are acquiring bad ones; if you be not forming virtuous habits you are, how insensibly soever to yourselves, forming vicious ones… Vol. I : The Dedication (March 1772)

„It may, perhaps, be true, though we cannot distinctly see it to be so, that as all finite things require a cause, infinites admit of none.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: It may, perhaps, be true, though we cannot distinctly see it to be so, that as all finite things require a cause, infinites admit of none. It is evident, that nothing can begin to be without a cause; but it by no means follows from thence, that that must have had a cause which had no beginning. But whatever there may be in this conjecture, we are constrained, in pursuing the train of causes and effects, to stop at last at something uncaused. That any being should be self created is evidently absurd, because that would suppose that he had a being before he had, or that he existed, and did not exist at the same time. For want of clearer knowledge of this subject, we are obliged to content ourselves with terms that convey only negative ideas, and to say that God is a being untreated or uncaused; and this is all that we mean when we sometimes say that he is self existent. Vol. I : Part I : The Being and Attributes of God, § 1 : Of the existence of God, and those attributes which art deduced from his being considered as uncaused himself, and the cause of every thing else (1772)

„Let us consider if as a duty of the first rank with respect to moral obligation, to transmit to our posterity, and provide, as far as we can, for transmitting, unimpaired, to the latest generations, that generous zeal for religion and liberty, which makes the memory of our forefathers so truly illustrious.“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: Respect a parliamentary king, and chearfully pay all parliamentary taxes; but have nothing to do with a parliamentary religion, or a parliamentary God. Religious rights, and religious liberty, are things of inestimable value. For these have many of our ancestors suffered and died; and shall we, in the sunshine of prosperity, desert that glorious cause, from which no storms of adversity or persecution could make them swerve? Let us consider if as a duty of the first rank with respect to moral obligation, to transmit to our posterity, and provide, as far as we can, for transmitting, unimpaired, to the latest generations, that generous zeal for religion and liberty, which makes the memory of our forefathers so truly illustrious. Vol. I : The Dedication (March 1772)

„He does not hesitate to assent to an opinion... that visual rays proceed from the eye“

—  Joseph Priestley
Context: Great as Bacon was, he was far from being free from the mistakes and prejudices of those who went before him. Even some of the most wild and absurd opinions of the antients have the sanction of his approbation and authority. He does not hesitate to assent to an opinion... that visual rays proceed from the eye; giving this reason for it, that every thing in nature is qualified to discharge its proper functions by its own powers, in the same manner as the sun, and other celestial bodies. He acknowledges, however, that the presence of light, as well as several other circumstances, is necessary to vision. Period I To the Revival of Letters in Erope

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