Vitalism in Early Modern Philosophy
March 29, 2019 – March 30, 2019
Emmanuel college, Cambridge University
For Call for Papers see here.
Early modern philosophy is often viewed as characterized by a crucial transition from the vitalist natural philosophy of the Renaissance to the new mechanistic natural philosophy of the seventeenth century. However, vitalism in fact continued to thrive in the early modern period, particularly in the writings of a group of philosophers associated with Cambridge Platonism. Thinkers such as Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Ralph Cudworth, and Henry More each developed their own distinctive form of vitalism, and collectively provided a powerful counterpoint to Cartesian mechanism.
But while all these philosophers were united in their deep commitment to the irreducibility and universality of life, the details of their respective views vary considerably. Whereas Cavendish and Conway, for instance, proposed monist frameworks to ground their vitalism, Cudworth and More remained wedded to a dualist metaphysics. Moreover, while early modern vitalism is perhaps most prominent in the writings of the Cambridge Platonists, it also left its mark on numerous other philosophers of the period such as Leibniz and Spinoza.
This conference proposes to examine vitalism as a philosophical movement in the early modern period, as well as the various metaphysical, moral, and theological considerations underlying it.
University of Portsmouth, 15-16 July 2016
The changes which resulted from the British Civil Wars are often seen as the first modern revolution. The establishment of a radical protestant regime in 1645, and of the English republic in 1649, were accompanied by profound alterations to the religious, social, cultural, political, financial and legal landscape. New patterns of consumption and socialisation emerged, along with the first stirrings of a scientific culture. Some embraced change, in Milton’s words, ‘musing, searching, revolving new notions … trying all things.’ Others were horrified, experiencing these as times of ‘distractions’, madness and trouble, a ‘World Turned Upside Down’.
Historians continue to debate the extent of the social disruption which resulted, and the success or failure of Godly religion. Yet in general, the consequences and personal experiences of the years which followed the first Civil war are significantly under-researched compared to its causes, due in part to the singular nature of the sources available for the years between 1645 and 1660. The aim of this conference is to encourage contributions to redress this balance, particularly in relation to social, religious and cultural change (or lack of it) and the general impact on everyday life and on individual experience.
The conference is sponsored by funding from the British Academy. Confirmed keynote speakers are Professor Bernard Capp (University of Warwick) and Dr Angela McShane (Victoria and Albert Museum)
Call for Papers
The conference is open to scholars at all academic stages, postgraduate to professor. The intention is to have a wide thematic remit within the broad theme of society and religion during the stated period. Delegates are invited to submit abstracts on all aspects of this theme, including but not restricted to:
- Religious practice including: parish religion; separatism; loyalist religion and resistance to religious change; personal religious experience
- Social and economic structure and change
- Material Culture
- Personal accounts of this period in diaries, memoirs and correspondence
- Popular and elite cultures; relations between rich and poor
- Printed and oral cultures
- Military and civil culture and society
- Subcultures and cultural conflict
- Urban and rural society
- Pastimes, sports and recreations
- Sociability and the reformation of manners
- Gender and sexuality
- Family and household
- Childhood, youth, education and literacy
- Criminality and the legal process
- Patterns of consumption and commerce
- Agriculture and industry
- Science and medicine
- Superstition and magic
- Food and drink
Please submit proposals of 250-300 words for papers of no more than 20 minutes to Dr Fiona McCall by 30 April 2016.