Cambridge Platonism at the ISNS

There are a number of papers on the Cambridge Platonists due to be presented at the 15th annual ISNS conference, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 14-17 June 2017, at Palacký University Olomouc.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Early Modern Platonism (Organizers: Anna Corrias, Douglas Hedley, and Valery Rees)

  • David Leech, Bristol University and Cambridge Platonist Research Group, University of Cambridge, “Cudworth on Superintellectual Instinct as a Species of Orphic – Pythagorean Love”


Ancient Theology and the Cambridge Platonists (Organizers: Douglas Hedley and Natalia Strok)

  • Natalia Strok, UBA- CONICET-UNLP, “Arianism and Platonism: traces of Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica in Cudworth’s The True Intellectual System”
  • Derek Michaud, University of Maine, “John Smith’s Plotinian Rational Theology”
  • Douglas Hedley, University of Cambridge, “Ralph Cudworth and Ancient Theology”



Full program available here.

‘Cambridge Platonism Revisited’ at the AAR

On Monday 25th of November at 4.00 pm-6.30pm there was a session of the American Academy of Religion at Baltimore on ‘Cambridge Platonism Revisited’.

Speakers included:

Eric Parker (McGill)

The Chaldean Triad: Erôs, Alêtheia, Pistis, and the Relationship between Faith and Reason in the Works of Peter Sterry

Proclus posits Love (erôs), Truth (alêthia) and Faith (pistis), terms he discovers in the Chaldean Oracles, as the sympathetic (sympatheia) and uplifting powers (anagôgoi) that cause the union of the One and the “one in the soul.” For Proclus, rational faith should be differentiated from the irrational faith in Plato’s “divided line” analogy because it initiates one into union with the Good through an intuitive resting within the common notions (koinai ennoiai) of the intellect. The Cambridge Platonist, Peter Sterry uses the Chaldean Triad, translated as knowledge/understanding, faith, and love in his treatise on free will and in his sermons on Matthew. Sterry’s concept of the unity of the intellect and will in the soul is dependent on Proclus’s idea that “all things are in the soul.” This Unity is the Word who dwells naturally within the soul. For Sterry, however, a supernatural knowledge, faith, and love are necessary in order to reach perfect inward unity. In his sermons on Matthew, Sterry says that faith is the third link of the divine chain by which God draws up human souls to himself. Faith causes Truth to come into sympathetic harmony with truth in the soul. Faith is the human counterpart of divine Love within the Godhead, which ignites the flame of love in the hearts of believers. Though some have labeled Sterry’s opinion concerning the weakness of the post-lapsarian will as “Calvinistic” a more balanced perspective will not fail to mention the influence of Proclean Neoplatonism on Sterry’s concept of rational faith and its philosophical underpinnings.

Heather C. Ohaneson (Columbia)

Ralph Cudworth, Menasseh ben Israel, and the Readmission of Jews to England: The Political Circumstances of a Seventeenth-Century Theological-Philosophical Encounter

This paper concerns the intersection of philosophy, theology, and politics with respect to the question of the readmission of Jews to England in 1655-1656. By examining the theological interests and philosophical commitments of the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth–and, at the same time, by acknowledging the sources and range of his political access–it is possible to see the tensions underlying his recommendation of religious tolerance. Attention to several of the positions espoused by Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel, whom Cudworth met in London on the occasion of the Whitehall Conference, will show a similarly complicated coincidence of political and theological views. As Cudworth sought to read Plato through the lens of Moses, and as Menasseh attempted to approach Kabbalah by way of Neoplatonism, we may look to make sense of Cudworth and Menasseh’s philosophies politically.

Alex Hampton (Cambridge)

Romantic Spinozism and Cambridge Platonism: Herder’s Cudworth-Inspired Revision of Spinoza

This paper explores the hidden role of Cudworth in shaping the Frühromantik reception of Spinoza through the intermediary of Herder. Herder was the most important source of Romantic Spinozism. His influential Gott Einige Gespräche über Spinoza’s System, ostensibly a defence of Spinoza, was in fact a revision of Spinoza along largely Cudworthian lines. After establishing the general relationship between Herder and Cudworth, this examination will outline three areas where Cudworth played a formative role for Herder. Finally, it will place Herder in the context of the Pantheism Controversy, which was so influential upon the Frühromantik.

Douglas Hedley (Cambridge) presided.

Cambridge Platonism Workshop 3 “Reception & Influence” 31 May – 1 June 2013



Clare College, Cambridge

DAY ONE: Friday 31 May 1.00pm – 6.00pm

Chair: Sarah Hutton, Aberystwyth University

1.00 Buffet Lunch

2.00-2.50         Michael Gill (University of Arizona)

Paper: Whichcote and Cudworth on Religious Tolerance and the Readmission of the Jews

2.50-3.25         Nick Fisher

Presentation : The influence of John Smith’s ‘noble intellect and generous Christian faith’ upon Simon Patrick (1626-1707)

3.25 Tea/Coffee

3.45-4.35         Luisa Simonutti (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), ISPF –CNR)

Paper: Consciousness and identity : Locke and Cudworth

4.35-5.10         Isabel Rivers (Queen Mary, University of London)

Presentation: The promotion of the Cambridge Platonists by some clerics and ministers from the later seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries: Gilbert Burnet, Henry Scougal, William Wishart, John Wesley, Richard Price, Alexander Knox, John Jebb

5.10-6.00         visit to Queens’ College (John Smith’s library)

6.00-7.00         downtime

7.00-7.30         drinks reception, Clare College

7.30                 workshop dinner, Small Hall, Clare College


Saturday 1 June 9.00am – 6.00 pm

Chair: Douglas Hedley, Clare College

9.00-9.50         Thomas Fedrick-Illsley (Christ Church, University of Oxford)

Paper: Samuel Clarke and the Cambridge Platonists

9.50-10.40       Friedrich Uehlein (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Paper: Whichcote, Shaftesbury and Deism

10.40 Tea/Coffee

11.00-11.35     Louise Hickman (Newman University)

Presentation: Deiform reason: The Cambridge Platonists and Eighteenth Century Dissenting Thought

11.35-12.10     Sylvana Tomaselli (St John’s College, Cambridge)

Presentation: Reflections on Love in the political writings of Wollstonecraft

12.10-1.00       Derek Michaud (Boston University)

Paper: John Smith’s Lasting Influence: The Transatlantic Reception of a ‘Living Library’

1.00     Buffet Lunch

2.00-2.50         James Vigus (Queen Mary, University of London)

Paper: “This is not quite fair, Master More!”: Coleridge’s Encounters with the Cambridge Platonists

2.50-3.40         Philippe Barthelet (Paris)

Paper: Entre théodicée et apologétique, Platon comme « préface humaine de l’Évangile » : Joseph de Maistre et Simone Weil dans le sillage ouvert par Cudworth

3.40     Tea/Coffee

4.00-4.35         Russell Manning (University of Aberdeen)

Presentation: The Irrelevance and Relevance of Cambridge Platonism for Twentieth-Century Theology

4.35-5.00         General Discussion (introduced by John Rogers, Keele University (emeritus))

5.00-6.00         visit to Christ’s and Emmanuel College

6.00-7.00         downtime, and meeting of advisory board (6.15-6.45)

7.00-7.30         drinks reception, Clare College

7.30                 dinner, Small Hall, Clare College

For further information, please contact David Leech (Project Coordinator):




The work of the Cambridge Platonists has been gravely neglected due to a
combination of scholarly misapprehensions, a lack of accessible textbooks,
and good critical editions of their major works. The central aim of this
interdisciplinary project is to begin addressing this neglect by bringing
together the major established UK and overseas researchers as well as early
career academics who work on, or have a close interest in, Cambridge
Platonism. This will advance research on this pivotal intellectual
movement. These discussions will take place at a series of workshops at
Clare College, Cambridge. Contributors will be drawn from the disciplines
of Philosophy, Theology/Religious Studies, and English Literature. Topics
covered by the project will include, but not be limited to, the formation
and sources of Cambridge Platonism, their key philosophical and religious
ideas, and their reception in the areas of (i) aesthetics; (ii) ethics;
(iii) metaphysics (iv) early-modern women’s writing; (v) secularisation and
the origins of atheism.

The project is spearheaded by Douglas Hedley (PI) and Sarah Hutton (Co-PI),
and it is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.