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),


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


  • 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

Discovery of A New Conway Letter

The Cambridge Platonist Research Group

Professor Sarah Hutton has recently discovered a Conway letter not included in the Conway Letters edited by herself and M.H. Nicolson. It is National Library of Ireland MS, from Lord Conway to his wife, written from Dublin and dated 24 August 1678–the year before her death. It tells her that he has arranged for imprisoned Quakers to be released and for the charges against others to be dropped. It also tells the story of a “bad” Quaker who cheated someone of his inheritance. And other things.

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