John Russell Roberts on Berkeley and Cambridge Platonism

John Russell Roberts, “A Puzzle in the Three Dialogues and Its Platonic Resolution,” in Stefan Storrie, ed., Berkeley’s Three Dialogues: New Essays (Oxford, 2018). DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198755685.003.0010

This essay suggests that Berkeley’s Neoplatonism may be profitably viewed as developed under the influence of Cambridge Platonism. A brief account of some key aspects of Cambridge Platonism are reviewed, specifically the central idea of the Image of God Doctrine (IGD) and Cudworth’s Axiarchism. Then possible points of influence of these aspects on Berkeley’s views are explored. In support of its possible usefulness, this approach to Berkeley’s Neoplatonism is used to shed light on his otherwise puzzling embrace of the pure intellect and abstract ideas. If Berkeley is drawing on the Cambridge Platonism tradition in the way suggested, he can have his pure intellect and its innate ideas without dragging along a commitment to a faculty of abstraction and its abstract ideas. Instead, the pure intellect is seen as a reflective faculty directed to the perfectly particular, concrete self.

 

Advertisements

Some Reflections on the Category ‘Cambridge Platonism’ by David Leech

In a project on ‘Cambridge Platonists at the Origins of Enlightenment’ it is clear that the legitimacy of the category ‘Cambridge Platonism’ cannot simply be taken for granted, and it is a priority of ours to bring some needed clarity to the use of this category. There are several reasons why this matters. One is because while there is broad consensus about which figures constitute the ‘hard core’ of Cambridge Platonism, there has been less consensus about who else should be classed as a ‘Cambridge Platonist’. Another is because some may regard the category itself as representing a kind of problematic reification of more complicated intellectual realities.

For full text see: http://cprg.hypotheses.org/517

Cambridge Platonism at the AAR 2017

Papers read at this year’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Boston:

Karen Felter (University of Muenster), “’The Middle Way of Truth’: The Role of Christ in Anne Conway’s Trinitarianism,” presented to the “Origen and the Roots of ‘Human Freedom’ and ‘Human Dignity’ in the West Seminar,” 20 November 2017.

The group of seventeenth century thinkers, known as the Cambridge Platonists, is theologically renowned for its ties to Origen. However, a comprehensive study of Anne Conway’s theology has never been conducted. This paper contributes to rectifying this by examining Conway’s conception of the Trinity. While Conway deploys the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of neo-platonic systematics, two basic features of her teachings are distinctly Origenian: Firstly, Conway’s process soteriology is based on Origen’s idea of apokatastasis. Conway views Christ as the necessary mediator between God and creation as every being works towards restoration. Christ participates in every being separately in what Conway refers to as “intimate presence”. The idea that Christ accommodates individually in the salvific process is distinctly Origenian. Secondly, Conway’s Trinity is characterized by the polarity of “motion” and “rest”, as is Origen’s. I argue that this is foundational for her critique of Cartesian Dualism.

Derek Michaud (University of Maine), “Reimagining Revelation, Tradition, and the Development of Doctrine,” presented to “Traditions of Interpretation” session, Christian Systematic Theology Unit, 19 November 2017.

This paper argues that rather than more or less distinct loci in systematic Christian theology, revelation and tradition should be conceived of as aspects of a single communicative act initiated by God and received by humanity and played out through time. Borrowing an image from the forward pass in American Football, and building on the arguments of the Cambridge Platonist John Smith (1618-1652), I argue for and understanding of tradition (etymology notwithstanding) not as something to “hand on” but as the history of the reception of God’s self-disclosure. The “development of doctrine” therefore is the process of receiving what God is (and has always been) sending us in a changing world. Tradition is reimagined as a source of doctrinal authority but not as a collection of content so much as a liturgical, prayerful, exegetical, and theological guide for living the Christian life here and now.