What was Jonathan Swift's role in The Battle of the Books?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Jonathan Swift was a protégé of William Temple. Temple wrote a long essay praising the Epistles of Phalaris as a unique expression of the thoughts of an archaic tyrant. Responding in part to Temple's essay, the notable philologist Richard Bentley wrote "Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris" which conclusively proved that the letters were not written by the notorious archaic tyrant but rather by a later (probably 2nd century CE) sophist. Swift wrote Tale of a Tub and Battle of the Books to support Temple contra Bentley.

Swift and Temple were staunch supporters of ancient books, the established Church of England (versus dissenters, although Temple himself had Epicurean leanings), and the authority of tradition, as opposed to the new science. Bentley was an admirer of Isaac Newton, a believer in the unlimited power of reason ("ratio et res ipsa"), and the authority of the historically researched scripture against ecclesiastical traditions.

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