"Chequer Works of Providence":Skeptical Providentialism in Daniel Defoe's Fiction
Daniel Defoe's fiction has never fit neatly into theories of the novel that rely upon Enlightenment ideals of secularization and development, largely because of his novels' dependence upon divine providence to explain the accidents of everyday life. Reading Defoe's philosophizing protagonists alongside Thomas Hobbes's notion of providence, I argue that the intense causal inquiry his characters undergo results in what I term "skeptical providentialism." I argue that causal awareness during this period required writers to challenge notions of both determinism and human agency, which in part produces the type of rational individual assumed to be fundamental to the eighteenth-century novel.
I mention this story also as the best method I can advise any person to take in such a case, especially if he be one that makes conscience of his duty, and would be directed what to do in it, namely, that he should keep his eye upon the particular providences which occur at that time, and look upon them complexly, as they regard one another, and as all together regard the question before him: and then, I think, he may safely take them for intimations from Heaven of what is his unquestioned duty to do in such a case; I mean as to going away from or staying in the place where we dwell, when visited with an infectious distemper.—Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) [End Page 107]
Daniel Defoe's fictional narrator H.F. introduces his account of the 1665 plague with the above piece of advice concerning the "particular providences" one should employ when assessing a proposed course of action surrounding an important decision—in this case, the decision to stay in disease-ridden London rather than flee the city. Such a reflection upon the potential effects that could occur if one makes certain choices reverses the typical mode of understanding fictional causality, in which a chain of causes and effects can only be understood when pieced together retrospectively within the narrative, after the events themselves have transpired. The careful plotting of causal chains of events, of course, marks one of the most characteristic narrative innovations of the eighteenth-century realist novel.1 Perhaps nowhere in eighteenth-century fiction is the confluence of imaginary causes with the accidents of human life more apparent than in the novels of Defoe. His protagonists, including H.F., Robinson Crusoe, and Moll Flanders all struggle to comprehend the vicissitudes of everyday experience in light of many conflicting logics of causation, all of which come to a head in the novelistic representation of an individual's life.
Eighteenth-century literary critics have been disposed to argue that a shift from a divine to a secular understanding of the world, corresponding with the Enlightenment, ushered in the novel, a new form more adequately capable of dealing with the type of subjectivity that "developed" during the modern period. At least since Michael McKeon's Origins of the English Novel, novelistic prose fictions from this period have been understood to be dealing with a dialectical dispute between epistemological "questions of truth" and social "questions of virtue."2 Arguments about rationalist, empirical knowledge making and its relation to the uniquely "modern" individual represented in early novels are not new; however, in recent years critics of the novel have increasingly focused on the role causation plays in the epistemological organization of an eighteenth-century individual's daily life.3 Christian Thorne, for instance, argues that providential modes of understanding the world are replaced with equally deterministic—but secular—paradigms like the more economically inflected concept of fortune. Thorne claims: "In order for an event to take on the full character of an event, it must be able to appear within narrative as something other than an index of divine will, and it is one of the signature projects of eighteenth-century narrative to purge itself of its inherited providential conventions."4 His [End Page 108] central thesis depends on the notion that "providence has to leave the scene" (DCE, p. 268) before fortune can become the privileged causal agent by which events can be understood, paving the way for a secular skepticism that functions alongside the empiricism of the early novel to provide a model more adequately prepared to deal with the realities of modern social experience.5
Defoe's novels famously run contrary to this assumed providential to secular trajectory, which has caused difficulty when placing his works within eighteenth-century histories of the novel. Throughout his fiction, Defoe experiments with various causal systems, all equally deterministic—including fortune, fate, the devil, and other sources of superstition—which come into question when confronted with the accidents of everyday life. While his protagonists grapple nigh constantly with questions of their own free will, their choices ultimately appear to resolve into a providential system in which these competing determinisms are subsumed by the sovereign will of God.
In this essay, I read Defoe's explicit and inventive thematization of this philosophical quarrel in conjunction with the arguments about divine providence scattered throughout Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, in order to trace the continuities between the ways both authors deal with the conflict between providence and free will.6 Rather than identify either Hobbes or Defoe as advocating for one specific system of understanding the relation between cause and effect, I see both of their philosophical projects as participating in the tradition of skepticism toward causality that is most frequently associated with David Hume. In positioning their hypothetical individuals within rival causal systems, which oscillate between freedom and necessity, Hobbes and Defoe exemplify the intense skepticism inherent in the mode of subjectivity adopted by eighteenth-century novelists. This skepticism poses a challenge to the neatly systematic and progressive modernization and secularization narratives to which Thorne's reading (and the tradition of "rise of the novel" narratives writ large) is indebted. Instead of replacing notions of God's providence with some secular entity like fortune, I argue that an emphasis on understanding causality during this period required writers to engage with what I term "skeptical providentialism," in which necessity and chance, spirituality and secularity, determinism and free will all converge simultaneously within the common experiences of everyday life. [End Page 109]
Early in Leviathan, Hobbes argues that an understanding of the connection between causes and their earthly effects is not only an innate human desire but also one of the foundational elements of rational thought. He notes two modes of thinking, both of which invoke an empirical consideration of causation: "The Trayn of regulated Thoughts is of two kinds; One, when of an effect imagined, wee seek the causes, or means that produce it: and this is common to Man and Beast. The other is, when imagining any thing whatsoever, wee seek all the possible effects, that can by it be produced; that is to say, we imagine what we can do with it, when wee have it."7 Hobbes continues to explain that the future is nothing but "a fiction of the mind," for while we can exercise prudence in contemplating the ordinary conjunction of causes that produce certain effects, this mental acuity still relies upon "Presumption" (L, p. 22).
Hobbes's take on the fictional nature of causality anticipates Hume's critique of the principle of necessary connection, in which he argues that nothing in the world guarantees that the relations we perceive now between two events will persist in the future. Although the more we perceive such relations the more confident we are that they will continue, Hume maintains that they are still a fiction.8 The stakes of Hume's skepticism are secular and epistemological; he positions the contemplation of causes within his system of empirical observation of the functioning of the human mind. For Hobbes, however, causal inquiry almost inevitably leads one back to God: "Curiosity, or love of the knowledge of causes, draws a man from consideration of the effect, to seek the cause; and again, the cause of that cause; till of necessity he must come to this thought at last, that there is some cause, whereof there is no former cause, but is eternall, which is it men call God" (L, p. 74). Because our mental capacity to follow a causal chain is necessarily limited by our inability to access the point of origin, Hobbes suggests that endeavoring to do so is what leads us to imagine God as first cause.
While Hobbes's notion of providence implies the necessary presence of God, however, he rhetorically makes room for God as simply a fictional necessity—"which … men call God"—an imaginary construct resulting from our own ineptitude at considering the infinite. Providence, for Hobbes, is not necessarily synonymous with God; as it is "the foresight of things to come," it follows that providence "belongs onely to him by whose will they are to come" (L, p. 22). Men are capable of providence [End Page 110] in the prudential sense insofar as attention to prior patterns of causation can afford us foresight into what actions will result in future effects, but "no humans [sic] Providence is high enough, to give a man a prospect to the end" (p. 253). By Hobbes's approximation, we may not require a deity at the end of the causal chain, but "when there is nothing to be seen, there is nothing to accuse … but some Power, or Agent Invisible" (p. 76).
God is always the first cause of human action in Hobbes's system, then, not because he necessarily exists but because human minds cannot otherwise comprehend the consequences of our own actions. Ultimately, Hobbes's providentialism resolves into a system in which a subject's free will can only ever be a fiction, as the actions one ultimately performs correspond to some sort of larger design. Still, his emphasis on the inherent fiction of God's providence itself reveals a mode of providen- tialism that tends toward the skeptical rather than the dogmatic. This rhetorical conception of divine providence, fraught as it is, might offer a useful model for approaching the seemingly contradictory descriptions of providence that appear throughout Defoe's oeuvre.
Daniel Defoe's representation of causality in his novels and other writings reveals a deep-seated ambivalence toward the workings of divine providence. At the heart of the early eighteenth-century novel more generally, but particularly in Defoe, is an obsessive fascination with the processes of decision making and the explication of cause and effect. Centering the individual as the focal point of narrative requires the novelist to show the protagonist constantly questioning the consequences that his or her actions might have, both through a reflection on past events and anticipated future effects.9 Criticism on Defoe tends to read his work through one of two lenses—economic or spiritual—without necessarily integrating the two.10 His providentialism consistently garners critical attention,11 though the opposing causal forces in his novels have been frequently overlooked.12 While Defoe's narrators continually appeal to divine providence to make sense of the events they experience, the vagaries of life are presented, for characters like Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and H.F., as purely accidental (at least initially). Only through a retrospective narration of events do these protagonists begin to enfold the contingencies of their former lives within a cohesive narrative that fits inside a providential framework. This framing mechanism results in [End Page 111] narratives that seem fraught between the two extremes of pure chance on the one hand and absolute determinism on the other.
The passage from Journal of the Plague Year cited at the beginning of this essay illustrates the fact that the providential causality at the heart of novels like Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders is not the only means by which Defoe figures causal inquiry in his novels. His characters' decisionmaking processes—which develop as they learn from the consequences of their previous actions—are perhaps even more significant than the providential interpretations they make at the end of their first-person narratives, from the vantage point of hindsight. H.F.'s injunction to his reader to pay attention to causal relationships exemplifies a larger theme in Defoe's body of work: the importance of "complexly" deliberating prior to making a potentially consequence-laden decision.
Like Hobbes, Defoe seems to suggest that we live in a world in which our actions correspond with our own free will. However, when we follow the consequences of these actions to their natural conclusions—to the end of one's life or "surprising adventures," say—the narrative product resembles a deterministic system, insofar as the overcoming of challenges can be retrospectively read as effects of providential intervention. For instance, at the end of her narrative, Moll Flanders attributes a providential design to the course of her life: "My past wicked and abominable Life never look'd so Monstrous to me, and I never so completely abhorr'd it, and reproached myself with it, as when I had a Sense upon me of Providence doing good to me."13 Moll's life of prostitution and thievery, however, can be difficult to reconcile consistently with providential design; she struggles to attribute causality variously to the "accidental" forces of economic fortune, the Devil, and chance, but ultimately arrives back at providence.
A vacillation toward providentialism is not only evident at the end of Defoe's novels, however. When we see Defoe's characters reading providential meaning into chance occurrences—for instance, when Crusoe and H.F. practice bibliomancy to confirm decisions they've already made or are in the process of making—it is easy to substantiate a reading of Defoe's larger dedication to a logic of providentialism. Defoe's novels imply that we do, in fact, live in a world in which providence—divine or otherwise—gives us hints as to how our actions might cause certain effects in the future, though we cannot guarantee that our readings of these signs are ever truly accurate.
Defoe's ambivalence regarding the workings of providence thus never directly discounts the presence of some sort of divine intervention, even [End Page 112] as his characters do at times express skepticism toward the reliability of providence as a rubric for how one might live his or her life. For instance, while H.F. examines the workings of divine justice in light of the plague taking victim both morally good and corrupt people alike, he leaves room to consider material causes behind the epidemic as well. By the end of A Journal of the Plague Year, H.F. clearly believes that the plague was divine in origin and concludes his narrative with the avowal that "nothing but the immediate finger of God, nothing but omnipotent power"14 could have ended it. Still, his dismissal throughout the text of those who blindly give themselves over to providential will, ignoring the realities of contagion and thus eschewing preventative measures, suggests that he simultaneously acknowledges material/human and divine causation. The many qualifications H.F. requires to develop his providential interpretation supports Ian Watt's assessment that "Defoe often suggests that an incident is an act of Divine providence or retribution, but this interpretation is rarely supported by the facts of the story" (RN, p. 80). Following Hobbes's logic of the unknowable infinite, it is fairly easy to see how H.F. might not see providence as the necessary conclusion of his causal musings but, rather, as the only possible explanation that he can mentally grasp. A rational person who, nevertheless, remains largely ignorant of medical realities, H.F. must utilize the abstraction of "providence" when causal inquiry runs its course.
In Robinson Crusoe, the question of providential influence arises out of Crusoe's relation to his environment. When he is at his most comfortable, Crusoe is content to submit to a divine order, safely attributing the causality of the events of his life to a beneficent providence. However, fear begets doubt, and Crusoe's skeptical moments arise when his solitary position on the island is unsettled, leaving him vulnerable to outside forces. For instance, after discovering the footprint on his island, Crusoe contemplates several possible explanations, invoking contradictory causal logics for each. First, he notes, "I fancy'd it must be the Devil; and Reason joyn'd in with me upon this Supposition."15 He quickly reasons himself out of these superstitious assumptions, moving onto the new possibility, that the "Savages of the main Land" have discovered his little kingdom and will soon reduce him to "meer Want" (RC, p. 155). Finally, Crusoe considers that the footprint is simply his own, and that running through all these possibilities is simply a symptom of his lack of faith in divine providence.
Midway through the causal struggle instigated by the footprint, Defoe situates Crusoe's famous exclamation on the vicissitudes of life: " [End Page 113] How strange a Chequer Work of Providence is the Life of Man! and by what secret differing Springs are the Affections hurry'd about as differing Circumstance present!" (RC, p. 156). The Crusoe of the narrative present invokes providence as a variable, capricious force at the very moment of doubt. In contrast, Crusoe the retrospective narrator immediately follows this declaration with yet another interpretation of providence:
Such is the uneven State of human Life: And it afforded me a great many curious Speculations afterwards, when I had a little recover'd my first Surprize; I consider'd that this was the Station of Life the infinitely wise and good Providence of God had determin'd for me, that as I could not foresee what the Ends of Divine Wisdom might be in all this, so I was not to dispute his Sovereignty, who, as I was his Creature, had an undoubted Right by Creation to govern and dispose of me absolutely as he thought fit; and who, as I was a Creature who had offended him, had likewise a judicial Right to condemn me to what Punishment he thought fit; and that it was my Part to submit to bear his Indignation, because I had sinn'd against him.(RC, p. 157)
Crusoe here seems to adopt a Hobbesian perspective toward the divine "Sovereignty" of God; the "uneven State of human Life" might require him to exercise his own "providence" when making decisions, but ultimately the liberty to determine one's own course of life falls within a larger deterministic system—that of the unknowable "Ends of Divine Wisdom." Crusoe suggests that his actions are not only subject to providence because of the natural conclusion of God as first cause (as in Hobbes) but because the events of his life are, in fact, predestined. In other words, whereas for Hobbes recourse to providence comes only after exhausting all other possible causes, here providence comes first, prior to any foresight Crusoe could possibly imagine. Fredric Jameson has claimed that providential views reliant on doctrines of predestination provide the subject with "existential freedom" only in the sense that one can never know the course of events that providence has planned and, therefore, one acts as though his or her actions have causal significance, when in fact one's will is of no real consequence.16 The conclusion Crusoe comes to in this passage, then, seems to directly contradict the idea that human life could possibly be a "Chequer Work of Providence," which would imply the mutability of both human and divine providences in response to human actions.
Defoe's larger body of work is similarly beset with conflict as regards resolving skepticism with an overarching interpretation of the workings [End Page 114] of providence. He focuses on the question of providence at length in his Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, in a chapter entitled "Of Listning to the Voice of Providence." In this chapter, Defoe's position on the debate between individual liberty and providential determinism is again fraught with ambivalence. To some extent, he maintains a dedication to the notion that human will, while at some liberty, remains subject to providential causality:
Providence decrees, that Events shall attend upon Causes in a direct Chain, and by an evident Necessity, and has doubtless left many Powers of Good and Evil, seemingly to our selves, and, as it were, in our Hands, as the natural Product of such Causes and Consequences, which we are not to limit, and cannot expressly determine about, but which we are accountable for the good or evil Application of; otherwise we were in vain exhorted and commanded to do any good thing, or to avoid any wicked one: Rewards and Punishments would be incongruous with sovereign Justice; and Promises, and Threatnings, be perfectly unmeaning useless things, Mankind being no free Agent to himself, or entrusted with the necessary Powers, which those Promises and Threatenings imply.17
From the start, Defoe makes clear that providence is the preeminent causal agent, which human action follows. Causes precede their effects "by an evident Necessity," which gives us the illusion of free will—"seemingly to our selves, and, as it were, in our Hands." We have a responsibility to choose whether or not we perform good or wicked actions. In so doing, Defoe seems to say, liberty becomes a byproduct of providential causality, in which humans possess the will to determine their actions simply in order to confirm providential rewards and punishments. Humans are "no free Agent[s]" to themselves; rather, their agency is a necessary fiction within the providential scheme Defoe sets up. The limited possibility for free will laid out here remains in keeping with the doctrine of predestination, which byJameson's account involves virtuous behavior "on the off chance our fate will be harmonious with this conduct," even if our actions may have no real causal effect (AR, p. 200).
Defoe quickly qualifies his claims about providence, however, gradually introducing more room for individual human agency to be taken into account: "I am for freely and entirely submitting all Events to Providence; but not to be supinely and unconcernedly passive, as if there was nothing warning, instructing, or directing in the Premonitions of God's Providence; and which he expected we should take Notice of, [End Page 115] and take Warning by" (SR, p. 185). At this point, Defoe begins to sound less like Hobbes at his most deterministic and more like H.F. or Crusoe in their moments of skepticism. Again, Defoe rejects the possibility of existing outside a providential system entirely, but here he suggests that some room for human action might, in fact, be willed by the individual rather than by God's sovereign will. While providence is still referred to in its divine terms, the suggestion for how one ought to behave fits more in line with an understanding of providence as prudence—considering material realities and relationships of cause and effect before determining a course of action. Still, Defoe gives the following comical example to warn his reader that following the voice of providence does not mean blindly responding to "signs" of the universe: "I am not answerable for any Extremes these Things may lead weak People into; I know some are apt to entitle the Hand of God, to the common and most ridiculous Trifles in Nature; as a religious Creature, I knew, seeing a Bottle of Beer being over ripe burst out, the Cork fly up against the Ceiling, and the Froth follow it like an Engin, cried out, O! the Wonders of Omnipotent Power' (SR, p. 187). The nuanced version of providence Defoe provides here therefore entails a complicated interpretive task for the individual, which requires thinking carefully before making assumptions about providential intent. The responsibility for "correctly" interpreting causal relationships in the material world is, in other words, on us.
The above perspective allows those individuals who actively participate in reasoning through their own experiences—individuals like Crusoe or H.F.—to define for themselves the course of the actions they take through life while still following the goals or "voice" of providence. If we follow a Hobbesian logic here, the narratives that an individual would thereby construct by following through the chain of causation would not necessarily have to bring one to God as first cause, but Defoe remains hesitant to abandon the "divine" part of divine providence. Later in the Serious Reflections, Defoe returns to a suggestion that the various accidents for which we struggle to find meaning are, in fact, always providential in nature: "With what Face can any Man say, this was as the Devil would have it, or as bad Luck would have it, or it happen'd, or chanc'd, or fell out; all which are our simple and empty Ways of talking of things that are order'd by the immediate Hand or Direction of God's Providence" (SR, p. 198). At this moment in the text, the claim seems to have more to do with Defoe's reluctance to accept the entrance of superstition within his system than it does with codifying a definitively deterministic system. Still, the continual return to God we see time and [End Page 116] again reaffirms Defoe's anxiety with regard to abandoning providential causality in favor of a system that upholds material or human agency above, or even in conjunction with, divine intervention.
The version of skeptical providentialism offered up by both Hobbes and Defoe leaves room for several potentially contradictory readings of either writer's willingness to allow for human liberty to prevail over divine providence. If human action has no bearing on the ultimate causal relations perceived in such a system, then free will is limited at best and completely imaginary at worst. It seems incorrect, however, to consider that either Hobbes or Defoe is prescribing an altogether restricted account of human liberty. Instead, both seem to allow for human action to have concrete effects upon their world and then, retrospectively, these effects can be enfolded within a larger providential framework. Jameson notes that the tradition of "great realism" we tend to identify with novels of the later nineteenth century is one of "immanent immanence, a kind of miraculous unity of form and content, a unique ontological possibility" (AR, p. 216). Clearly, Defoe's novels do not fit into this framework. His protagonists' insistence upon resolving their narratives through providential modes of understanding the world has been, at least in part, responsible for the tricky nature of situating his texts within theoretical and historical accounts of the realist novel.
However, Jameson offers up another model—which he calls "providential realism"—in which an "immanent transcendence" is possible (AR, p. 216). Such a mode of fiction can accommodate the fervent causal inquiry I am choosing to refer to as "skeptical providentialism." The epistemological and ontological goals of this type of fiction do not follow the typical pattern we associate with the early novel's presentation of an individual's so-called development through a representation of consciousness associated with some modern ideal of "progress." Rather, skeptical providential realism allows an individual like Robinson Crusoe, H.F., or Moll Flanders to continually assess his or her motivations, actions, and the consequences of those actions in light of both their own knowledge and their own ignorance. If such individuals do not come to see themselves as independent of a deterministic causal system, it is only because their rational capacities—like those of any natural human mind—are incapable of understanding the world around them without resorting to the fictional constructs that providentialism supplies. [End Page 117]
Traditional accounts of the rise of the novel have been marked by a commitment to a modernization narrative underwritten by an ideology of development and progress. If, as Thomas Pfau has claimed, it is true that the "price of an age of continual 'progress' is that life increasingly resembles a terminally incomplete narrative,"18 then an evaluation of fiction produced during this era of supposed progress might reveal the ways in which the progressive "rise of the novel" narrative has failed to sufficiently explain the establishment of a new mode of fiction outside the conceptual backdrop of development. I want to argue for the possibility that the novel's "rise" was not, as popular accounts tend to assert, occasioned by a sudden shift in consciousness but, rather, that the subjective experience of the "modern" individual resulted, at least in part, from a contemplation of the causes—material, psychological, spiritual, superstitious, and otherwise—behind one's actions.
As the examples of Hobbes and Defoe show, causal inquiry during this period necessarily brought individuals to invoke providence—a notion that could be by turns spiritual, secular, or both—when faced with the impossible task of following a chain of cause and effect through the course of one's life. The problem of causation thereby lent a deeply skeptical perspective that allowed providence to move beyond one distinct spiritual paradigm through which actions and events might be understood. The narrative space of the novel allows both authors and the individuals they create to embrace an interrogation of the empirical observations that we can make in light of the things we simply cannot know for certain. Competing causal logics requiring individuals to make use of a skeptical version of providentialism are more interesting to the novel than is the simple, unquestioning acceptance of one system of causation over another. Crusoe's exclamation asserting human life as a "Chequer Work of Providence" seems a particularly apt metaphor for the narrative act I suggest causal inquiry provokes in the eighteenth-century novel. It suggests that providence enters as it will, and that, at least to some extent, perhaps it is not worth trying to figure out the mysterious "Ends of Divine Wisdom" (RC, p. 157). Yet the novel is always trying to figure out these ends, piecing together the lines of causation behind each episode in the life of an individual.
This act of weaving together the accidents of everyday life into a larger narrative framework incites individuals (novelistic or otherwise) to question the role of divine providence in the minutiae of everyday [End Page 118] existence. Providence is significant in the eighteenth-century novel, and particularly the novels of Defoe, not only as a plot device or as a Protestant belief system beginning to waver, but as the means by which the individual comes to know him- or herself, even as the events of daily life seem to suggest that the world might be out of one's own control. Consideration of the novel's simultaneous acceptance of and skepticism toward providential perspectives on human liberty and action challenges, but also expands, dominant developmental theories of novel history and generic change. Accepting a skeptical model for providentialism in the eighteenth-century novel might therefore help us to avoid the "terminally incomplete" narratives of literary history that continue to challenge and frustrate critics of the novel to this day.
1. In his seminal Rise of the Novel, Ian Watt claims: "The novel's plot is … distinguished from most previous fiction by its use of past experience as the cause of present action: a causal connection operating through time replaces the reliance of earlier narratives on disguises and coincidences, and this tends to give the novel a much more cohesive structure" (p. 22). Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957); hereafter abbreviated RN.
2. Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).
3. Versions of this argument can be seen both in Watt and in Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism from 1719-1900 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). At the heart of Armstrong's text is a claim that "the history of the novel and the history of the modern subject are, quite literally, one and the same" (p. 3). This argument outlines the ways in which the eighteenth-century novel existed in a mutually constitutive relationship with philosophical and other social discourses and, as a result, created the subject position that we now identify as that of the modern liberal individual.
4. Christian Thorne, The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 268; hereafter abbreviated DCE.
5. See, too, a similar argument about the waning of providential significance in early eighteenth-century fiction in Leo Braudy, "Providence, Paranoia, and the Novel," ELH 48, no. 3 (1981).
6. Defoe's relation to Hobbes has frequently been considered, though almost exclusively in the context of how Defoe fictionalizes the State of Nature in Robinson Crusoe. One crucial exception is found in Carol Kay, Political Constructions: Defoe, Richardson, and Sterne in Relation to Hobbes, Hume, and Burke (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). However, where Kay focuses on the political implications of Hobbes's influence on Defoe's fiction more generally, my concern here is with Hobbesian epistemology relative to Defoe's fraught relationship to providential versus other forms of causality.
7. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 21; hereafter abbreviated L.
8. See David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 2nd ed., ed. Eric Steinberg (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993) and A Treatise of Human Nature, 2nd ed., ed. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978).
9. For an in-depth analysis of individual action in relation to will in eighteenth-century literary and philosophical texts, see Jonathan Kramnick, Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).
10. Virginia Ogden Birdsall notes another tendency in Defoe scholarship to focus on one novel—usually Robinson Crusoe—rather than considering the larger continuities throughout his oeuvre that might help reconcile the problematic thematic readings. See Virginia Ogden Birdsall, Defoe's Perpetual Seekers: A Study of the Major Fiction (Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1985), p. 17.
11. See, for instance, G. A. Starr, Defoe and Spiritual Autobiography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965) and J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe's Emblematic Method and Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe" (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966).
12. Sandra Macpherson points out that "Defoe's interest in accidental harm has received little attention in a critical tradition focused on his providentialism—a logic that, like tragedy, is concerned with unintended acts and consequences and is a way of thinking of persons as rigorously emplotted but in which the accidents of fate are necessarily felicitous and, moreover, are something for which no one is responsible. (God occasions events, but he is not blamed for them.)" (Sandra Macpherson, Harm's Way: Tragic Responsibility and the Novel Form [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010], p. 13.) See, too, Leland Monk's account of Robinson Crusoe in which he attempts to reconcile the contingencies of Crusoe's narrative with providential design in Standard Deviations: Chance and the Modern British Novel (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).
13. Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, ed. G. A. Starr and Linda Bree (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 280.
14. Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, ed. Anthony Burgess and Christopher Bristow (Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1966), p. 252.
15. Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, ed. J. Donald Crowley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 154; hereafter abbreviated RC.
16. Fredric Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism (New York: Verso, 2015), p. 200; hereafter abbreviated AR.
17. Daniel Defoe, Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, ed. G. A. Starr (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008), p. 184; hereafter abbreviated SR.
18. Thomas Pfau, Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), p. 325.