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.

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.