Marjorie Nicolson’s 1929 article, ‘Christ’s College and the Latitude-Men’ characterized the quarrel between Ralph Widdrington and the Cambridge Platonists Henry More and Ralph Cudworth as ‘the enmity of the fundamentalist for the liberal’. Widdrington called More and Cudworth ‘latitude-men’ and described the college as ‘a seminary of Heretics’. This article revisits the dispute by presenting a group biography of the Christ’s College fellowship between 1644 and 1669, showing More as an academic networker attracting students to his version of Platonism and Cudworth in action as a college head managing fellowship elections to build up support against Widdrington. The argument will be advanced that Widdrington’s opposition revealed the reality of a group of Platonic philosophical theologians at Christ’s College, as opposed to their mere reification by later admiring historians, thus challenging the doubts concerning the existence of Cambridge Platonism which have been asserted in recent historiography.
Marilyn A. Lewis, “‘Christ’s College and the Latitude-Men’ Revisited: A Seminary of Heretics?,” Mordechai Feingold, ed., History of Universities Volume XXXIII/1. Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780198865421.
I noted in an earlier post that the historian of philosophy Johann Jacob Brucker, writing in the 1730s and 1740s, distinguishes More’s ‘Platonico-Cabbalism’ from Cudworth, Gale, and Burnet’s ‘Alexandrian’ form of Platonism in his characterisation of their position. This must certainly reflect the fact that More had gained an early reputation in continental Europe for his engagement with the Cabbala. It is noteworthy that one of the first publications of note addressing More’s work on the continent, the Herborn Lutheran professor Samuel Andreae’s Examen Generale Cabbalae Philosophicae D. Henrici More (Herborn, 1670) is a critique of More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica (London, 1653), with which he was familiar in the English. More responded to Andreae’s critique in the scholia to his Opera Omnia (London, 1679), which in turn attracted a response from Andreae (then at Marburg) in his Epistola apologetica, ad virum eruditissimum & celeberrimum Henricum Morum (Marburg, 1684). Johannes Franciscus Buddeus, in a 23 page section of his Introductio ad historiam philosophiae Ebraeorum (Halle, 1702) discusses More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica before passing to a consideration of his later Cabbalistic writings.
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