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.

Hampton on “Herder’s Cudworth Inspired Revision of Spinoza from ‘Plastik’ to ‘Kraft’”

Alexander J. B. Hampton, “An English Source of German Romanticism: Herder’s Cudworth Inspired Revision of Spinoza from ‘Plastik’ to ‘Kraft’” The Heythrop Journal

Article first published online : 14 JUL 2015 07:26AM EST, DOI: 10.1111/heyj.12272

This examination considers the influence of the seventeenth century Cambridge Platonist Cudworth upon the thought of the late eighteenth century German thinker Herder. It focuses upon Herder’s use of Cudworth’s philosophy to create a revised version of Spinoza’s metaphysics. Both Cudworth and Herder were concerned with the problem of determinism. Cudworth outlined a number of difficulties relating to this problem in the thought of Spinoza and proposed amendments, particularly the introduction of the middle principle of plastik, which would mediate between the Ideas of transcendent reason and mechanical materialism. We find these amendments to Spinoza’s philosophy also employed in Herder’s contribution to the Pantheism Controversy, in which he too offers a revised Spinozism and introduces his own middle principle of Kraft. This demonstrates an important but under-explored English contribution to a key development in German intellectual history. The Pantheism Controversy was an epoch-making event, helping to bring an end to the German Enlightenment and to inaugurate the Romantic movement. Herder’s version of Spinoza’s thought revived the philosopher’s fortunes, and Herder’s notion of Kraft became central to Romantic aesthetics. Finally, Herder’s use of Cudworth demonstrates the important but overlooked source of Platonic realism in German Romantic thought.

Lewis, “The Educational Influence of Cambridge Platonism,” PhD 2011

Marilyn Ann Lewis, “The Educational Influence of Cambridge Platonism: Tutorial relationships and Student Networks at Christ’s College, Cambridge, 1641-1688,” PhD Thesis, Birkbeck, University of London, 2011.


Assessments of the influence of the Cambridge Platonists have tended to focus on later writers who explicitly adopted some of their ideas, or have suggested more vaguely that their ideas resulted in liberal theology sometimes verging towards heterodoxy.  This thesis attempts to explore the ‘educational influence’ of Henry More and Ralph Cudworth on a group of Cambridge students who have been selected on clear and consistent principles.  It presents a prosopographical study of undergraduates at Christ’s College, Cambridge, between 1641, when Henry More became a fellow, and 1688, when the Master Ralph Cudworth died.  Thirty-one students − whose tutors’ names are known, who were at Christ’s throughout their undergraduate careers, who graduated BA, who published works showing original thinking, and who could be identified with certainty – have been arranged into three tutorial ‘families’:  Cudworth and More’s circle, the intruded Puritan fellows’ group and Ralph Widdrington’s party.  Beyond the study of tutorial relationships, this thesis also explores the friendship and patronage networks of tutors and students in their careers.  The personalities, careers and writings of tutors and students have been studied with three objectives.  First, an attempt has been made to assess the influence of tutors on students, especially as evidenced in their writings, although a lack of published or manuscript writings by some tutors presents acknowledged difficulties.  Second, the possibility of discovering the corporate, if complex, intellectual ‘personality’ of each group has been explored.  Third, the specific influence of Cudworth and More on individual students has been assessed; while this was greatest in their own tutorial circle, there is also evidence of intellectual influence and practical assistance in the other tutorial ‘families’.  The thesis represents an unprecedented attempt to examine Oxbridge tutorial influence, using a new methodology which could potentially be applied to the students of other major thinkers.

Full text is available through the British Library via EThOS.