Cambridge Platonists at AAR 2018

James Bryson, Cambridge University, “Platonic Love in Henry More’s Ethics”

While modern scholars familiar with their thought agree that the Cambridge Platonists represent a watershed moment in western moral philosophy, there is little in the way of consensus about how to categorize their ethical thought. Some categorize them as proto-Kantian rationalists, while others regard them as Lockean empiricists. This paper will focus on the moral philosophy of the Cambridge Platonist Henry More (1614-1687), and argue that his ethical philosophy must be understood within the context of Neoplatonic tradition that he inherits, a tradition that emphasizes reason as well what modern philosophers might call experience, but ultimately is best seen as a tradition which emphasizes love – eros, agape, amor – as the way into the good life. Central to More’s moral psychology is the Platonic concept of participation and deiformity.


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.


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.

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