Confidence in the power of man replaced dependence on the grace of God—and
that rare intellectual orientation emerged, the key to the Enlightenment
approach in every branch of philosophy: secularism without skepticism.
In metaphysics, this meant a fundamental change in emphasis: from God to this
world, the world of particulars in which men live, the realm of nature . . . .
Men’s operative conviction was that nature is an autonomous realm—solid,
eternal, real in its own right. For centuries, nature had been regarded as a
realm of miracles manipulated by a personal deity, a realm whose significance
lay in the clues it offered to the purposes of its author. Now the operative
conviction was that nature is a realm governed by scientific laws, which permit
no miracles and which are intelligible without reference to the supernatural.