Eighteenth-Century Dissent and Cambridge Platonism by Louise Hickman (Routledge, 2017)

Louise Hickman, Eighteenth Century Dissent and Cambridge Platonism: Reconceiving the Philosophy of Religion, Routledge, 2017, 211pp., $140.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138652415.

Eighteenth-Century Dissent and Cambridge Platonism identifies an ethically and politically engaged philosophy of religion in eighteenth century Rational Dissent, particularly in the work of Richard Price (1723-1791), and in the radical thought of Mary Wollstonecraft. It traces their ethico-political account of reason, natural theology and human freedom back to seventeenth century Cambridge Platonism and thereby shows how popular histories of the philosophy of religion in modernity have been over-determined both by analytic philosophy of religion and by its critics. The eighteenth century has typically been portrayed as an age of reason, defined as a project of rationalism, liberalism and increasing secularisation, leading inevitably to nihilism and the collapse of modernity. Within this narrative, the Rational Dissenters have been accused of being the culmination of eighteenth-century rationalism in Britain, epitomising the philosophy of modernity. This book challenges this reading of history by highlighting the importance of teleology, deiformity, the immutability of goodness and the divinity of reason within the tradition of Rational Dissent, and it demonstrates that the philosophy and ethics of both Price and Wollstonecraft are profoundly theological. Price’s philosophy of political liberty, and Wollstonecraft’s feminism, both grounded in a Platonic conception of freedom, are perfectionist and radical rather than liberal. This has important implications for understanding the political nature of eighteenth-century philosophical theology: these thinkers represent not so much a shaking off of religion by secular rationality but a challenge to religious and political hegemony. By distinguishing Price and Wollstonecraft from other forms of rationalism including deism and Socinianism, this book takes issue with the popular division of eighteenth-century philosophy into rationalistic and empirical strands and, through considering the legacy of Cambridge Platonism, draws attention to an alternative philosophy of religion that lies between both empiricism and discursive inference.

 

Reviewed by Sandrine Bergès (Bilkent University) here.

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John Grey on “Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism”

John Grey, “Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism” Philosopher’s Imprint 17.13 (July 2017), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3521354.0017.013

Abstract

Anne Conway disagrees with substance dualism, the thesis that minds and bodies differ in nature or essence. Instead, she holds that “the distinction between spirit and body is only modal and incremental, not essential and substantial” (CP 6.11, 40). Yet several of her arguments against dualism have little force against the Cartesian, since they rely on premises no Cartesian would accept. In this paper, I show that Conway does have at least one powerful objection to substance dualism, drawn from premises that Descartes seems bound to accept. She argues that two substances differ in nature only if they differ in their “original and peculiar” cause (CP 6.4, 30); yet all created substances have the same original and peculiar cause; so, all created substances have the same nature. As I argue, the Cartesian is under a surprising amount of pressure to accept Conway’s argument, since its key premise is motivated by a conception of substance similar to one endorsed by Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy.

Full-text also available here.

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25.5 (2017): Cambridge Platonism, edited by Sarah Hutton

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25.5 (2017): Cambridge Platonism, edited by Sarah Hutton

Contents

  • Introduction: The Cambridge Platonists: Some New Studies, Sarah Hutton, 851-857; full-text available here.
  • Patrides, Plotinus and the Cambridge Platonists, Stephen R. L. Clark, 858-877
  • Descartes and More on the infinity of the world, Igor Agostini, 878-896
  • ‘In human shape to become the very beast!’ – Henry More on animals, Cecilia Muratori, 897-915
  • Henry More as reader of Marcus Aurelius, John Sellars, 916-931
  • Gods and giants: Cudworth’s platonic metaphysics and his ancient theology, Douglas Hedley, 932-953
  • Cudworth on superintellectual instinct as inclination to the good, David Leech, 954-970
  • Pre-existence and universal salvation – the Origenian renaissance in early modern Cambridge, Christian Hengstermann, 971-989
  • Time, space, and process in Anne Conway, Emily Thomas, 990-1010
  • Three texts on the Kabbalah: More, Wachter, Leibniz, and the philosophy of the Hebrews, Mogens Lærke, 1011-1030
  • Whichcote, Shaftesbury and Locke: Shaftesbury’s critique of Locke’s epistemology and moral philosophy, Friedrich A. Uehlein, 1031-1048