A major philosophical mind in his day, William Paley (1743–1805) wrote in a lucid style that made complex ideas more accessible to a wide readership. This work, first published in 1785, was based on the lectures he gave on moral philosophy at Christ's College, Cambridge. Cited in parliamentary debates and remaining on the syllabus at Cambridge into the twentieth century, it stands as one of the most influential texts to emerge from the Enlightenment period in Britain. An orthodox theologian, grounding his utilitarian ethics in strong religious faith, Paley held notably progressive views on issues of toleration and the slave trade. His perspicuity prompted one contemporary to remark that the book 'presents a subject which has always been considered as harsh and difficult, in the most agreeable and intelligible form … we sit down to be informed of our duty, and are surprised to meet with amusement'.