New Online Edition of Smith’s Select Discourses

Roger Howard has made his edition of John Smith’s Select Discourses available online here. He describes the work as follows:

John Smith’s Select Discourses are the only surviving literary resmithmains of an important member of the group of Cambridge theologians now known collectively as the Cambridge Platonists. The Select Discourses were first published in 1660, with a second edition in 1673. Since then, the text has been printed in a number of increasingly unsatisfactory editions, in which intrusive editors have progressively moved further away from the original. Here, I present what I believe to be an accurate text, with the annotations needed for a modern reader. A few gaps remain to be filled in providing translations of some rabbinical quotations, which I may try to remedy at some point. A description of  the contents of John Smith’s Commonplace Book is also to be added.

We are all in debt to Howard for this fine contribution to Cambridge Platonist scholarship!

The Cambridge Platonists and the Pre-History of the English Enlightenment

Matthew Cosby, “The Cambridge Platonists and the Pre-History of the English Enlightenment,” Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Wisconsin – Madison, 2016.


This work examines the prehistory of the Enlightenment, as manifested in a group of five English thinkers customarily known as theCambridge Platonists”—Benjamin Whichcote, Ralph Cudworth, Henry More, Nathaniel Culverwell, and John Smith. Not normally associated with the Enlightenment, and writing a generation before the latter is normally regarded as beginning, the Cambridge Platonists, my research has found, evinced many ideas and attitudes that we now associate with the Enlightenment—such as religious toleration, rationalism, an interest in natural science, and a focus on the present life and the physical world rather than the afterlife and realm of spirit. The broader, meta-hypothesis is that the Enlightenment does not begin suddenly at the end of the seventeenth century, as it is often treated, but emerges much more gradually and organically out of earlier modes of thought.

Committee: Johann P. Sommerville, Charles L. Cohen, Karl Shoemaker, Daniel Ussishkin, and Steven Nadler.