Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation

Derek Michaud

Studies in Philosophical Theology, 62 (Peeters, 2017), ISBN: 978-90-429-3482-5

John Smith (1618-1652), long known for the elegance of his prose and the breadth of his erudition, has been underappreciated as a philosophical theologian. This book redresses this by showing how the spiritual senses became an essential tool for responding to early modern developments in philosophy, science, and religion for Smith. Through a close reading of the Select Discourses (1660) it is shown how Smith’s theories of theological knowledge, method, and prophecy as well as his prescriptive account of Christian piety rely on his spiritual aesthetics. Smith offers a coherent system with intellectual intuition informing natural theology and revelation supplemented by spiritual perception via the imagination too. The central uniting feature of Smith’s philosophical theology is thus ‘spiritual sensation’ broadly construed. The book closes with proposals for research on Smith’s influence on the accounts of the spiritual senses developed by significant later figures including Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and John Wesley (1703-1791).


Review of Broad’s Philosophy of Mary Astell

Jacqueline Broad, The Philosophy of Mary Astell: An Early Modern Theory of Virtue, Oxford University Press, 2015, 205pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198716815.

Reviewed by Penny Weiss, St. Louis University

It is hard to believe that it was only in 1986 that the first two modern books on Mary Astell were published, one a biography, the other a collection of complete and excerpted works. In the 30 years since, all of Astell’s major writings have been made available, several with substantive introductions, and three monographs, an anthology of critical essays, and dozens of academic articles from multiple disciplines have been published. We can now add to the growing list this book by Jacqueline Broad, who has mastered and engages with all of this primary and secondary literature. Broad is the first to read Astell’s texts as parts of “a united and consistent” (5) philosophical system with a moral theory at its core, which she importantly claims is how Astell understood her own work. Broad’s unmistakable grasp of Astell does not always manifest itself evenly; one chapter tackles a particular work while another deals with a theme and yet another makes central a conflict in the secondary literature. Further, one chapter is overwhelmed by comparisons with those who influenced Astell, in another they rarely appear, and in none but the conclusion are contemporary links pursued, though they practically beg to be explored. Nonetheless, everyone will learn from this text, several debates about Astell are resolved in it, and Astell’s philosophical status is generally elevated.

Continue at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


FYI: Berkeley, Plato & Plotinus @ Trinity College, Dublin

The Trinity Plato Centre in conjunction with the Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin and with support from the Mind Association is pleased to announce an upcoming conference on Berkeley, Plato and Plotinus. The details of this event can be found below. Any queries should be directed to Peter D. Larsen (larsenp(at)

Topic: Berkeley Plato & Plotinus: Three Pillars of Idealism?

Date: 11–13 March 2016

Venue: IIIS Seminar Room, 6th Floor, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin


Friday 11 March

12.30–13.45 John Dillon (Trinity College Dublin)
Opening Remarks

13.45–15.00 Radek Chlup (Charles University, Prague)
“Body and Matter in Siris”

15.30–16.45 Stefan Storrie (Trinity College Dublin)
“On the Aptly Named Cratylus: Berkeley’s moral Platonism in Alciphron III”

16.45–18.00 Peter D. Larsen (Trinity College Dublin)
“Plato and Berkeley on Secondary Qualities”

Saturday 12 March

9.30–10.45 Rebecca Copenhaver (Lewis & Clark College, Oregon)
“Seeing things: Berkeley on mature human perceptual experience”

10.45–12.00 James Hill (Charles University, Prague)
“Berkeley on the Simplicity of the Soul

14.00–15.15 Sarah Magrin (University of California, Berkeley)
“Plotinus and Berkeley: Two different readings of Plato”

15.15–16.30 James Levine (Trinity College Dublin)
“Berkeley’s Idealism, Abstract Ideas and Notions”

16.30–17.45 Vasilis Politis (Trinity College Dublin)
“How to Match Berkeley and Plato: three contentious points of compatibility”

Sunday 13 March

10.00–11.15 David Berman/Brian Barrington (Trinity College Dublin)
“The Question of the One in Plato, Plotinus and Berkeley”

11.15–12.30 John Roberts (Florida State University)
“Berkeley’s Neoplatonism”

14.00–15.15 Eyjólfur Emilsson (University of Oslo)
“Idealism, Dualism or something else? Plotinus on mind-body”

15.15–16.30 David Horan (Trinity College Dublin)
“Plotinus Ennead VI.6.16: determinacy, and its cause, in the physical world with reference also to Plato’s Parmenides and Berkeley’s Siris”