Hedley: Gods and giants: Cudworth’s platonic metaphysics and his ancient theology

British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-22 (forthcoming)

The Cambridge Platonists are modern thinkers and the context of seventeenth-century Cambridge science is an inalienable and decisive part of their thought. Cudworth’s interest in ancient theology, however, seems to conflict with the progressive aspect of his philosophy. The problem of the nature, however, of this ‘Platonism’ is unavoidable. Even in his complex and recondite ancient theology Cudworth is motivated by philosophical considerations, and his legacy among philosophers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries should not be overlooked. In particular we will draw on the scholarship of the German Egyptologist Jan Assmann in order to reassess the significance of Cudworth’s theory of religion for later philosophical developments.



Clark on “Patrides, Plotinus and the Cambridge Platonists”

Stephen R. L. Clark, “Patrides, Plotinus and the Cambridge Platonists,”
British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 20 pgs, Published online: 22 Dec 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09608788.2016.1255179

Discussion of the Cambridge Platonists, by Constantinos Patrides and others, is often vitiated by the mistaken contrasts drawn between those philosophers and late antique Platonists such as Plotinus. I draw attention especially to Patrides’s errors, and argue in particular that Plotinus and his immediate followers were as concerned about this world and our immediate duties to our neighbours as the Cambridge Platonists. Even the doctrine of deification is one shared by all Platonists, though it is also here that genuine differences between pre-Christian and Christian exegesis can be found. All, it can be said, hope and expect to join ‘the dance of immortal love’, but Christian Platonists had a deeper sense of God’s ‘humility’ in His Word’s material and temporal manifestation. Not Olympian Zeus but the Crucified Christ was their preferred image of divine involvement, and their better guide to heaven.

Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation

Derek Michaud

Studies in Philosophical Theology, 62 (Peeters, 2017), ISBN: 978-90-429-3482-5

John Smith (1618-1652), long known for the elegance of his prose and the breadth of his erudition, has been underappreciated as a philosophical theologian. This book redresses this by showing how the spiritual senses became an essential tool for responding to early modern developments in philosophy, science, and religion for Smith. Through a close reading of the Select Discourses (1660) it is shown how Smith’s theories of theological knowledge, method, and prophecy as well as his prescriptive account of Christian piety rely on his spiritual aesthetics. Smith offers a coherent system with intellectual intuition informing natural theology and revelation supplemented by spiritual perception via the imagination too. The central uniting feature of Smith’s philosophical theology is thus ‘spiritual sensation’ broadly construed. The book closes with proposals for research on Smith’s influence on the accounts of the spiritual senses developed by significant later figures including Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and John Wesley (1703-1791).