Cambridge Platonists

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Cambridge Platonists,

group of English philosophers, centered at Cambridge in the latter half of the 17th cent. In reaction to the mechanical philosophy of Thomas Hobbes this school revived certain Platonic and Neoplatonic ideas. Chief among these was a mystical conception of the soul's relation to God and the belief that moral ideas are innate in man. Although tending toward mysticism, the school also stressed the importance of reason, maintaining that faith and reason differ only in degree. The assertion of the founder of the school, Benjamin Whichcote, that "the spirit in man is the cradle of the Lord" became the motto for the entire movement. Other leading members were Ralph CudworthCudworth, Ralph,
1617–88, English theologian and philosopher. He was a noted representative of the Cambridge Platonists. Cudworth's most ambitious work, The True Intellectual System of the Universe, was never completed.
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, Henry MoreMore, Henry,
1614–87, English philosopher, one of the foremost representatives of the school of Cambridge Platonists. His writings emphasized the mystical and theosophic phases of that philosophy, and as he grew older mysticism dominated his writings.
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, and John Smith.


See G. R. Cragg, ed., The Cambridge Platonists (1968); E. Cassirer, The Platonic Renaissance in England (tr. 1953, repr. 1970).

Cambridge Platonists


a group of English religious philosophers of the second half of the 17th century who tried through Neoplatonic ideas to place Christianity on a rationalist foundation.

The leading exponents were the Cambridge professors R. Cudworth and H. More and J. Glanvill at Oxford. The Cambridge Platonists opposed the empirical and sensationalist tendency in English philosophy and struggled against it— particularly against the materialist teaching of T. Hobbes. Although they rejected the ancient Neoplatonic doctrine of emanation, substituting for it the creation of the world by god, they adhered to the Neoplatonic idea of world reason, which they regarded as the intermediary between god and the world, as unconscious “plastic nature” carrying out the will of the creator. They accepted the Cartesian critique of empiricism but rejected Descartes’s mechanistic conception of the physical world and affirmed a teleological view of nature.


Istoriia filosofii, vol. 2. [Moscow] 1941. Pages 212–13.
Smirnov, A. Istoriia angliiskoi etiki, vol. 1. Kazan, 1880.
Campagnac, E. T. Cambridge Platonists. Oxford, 1901.
Cassirer, E. Die Platonische Renaissance in England und die Schule von Cambridge. Leipzig-Berlin, 1932.
Passmore, J. A. R. Cudworth. Cambridge, 1951.
References in periodicals archive ?
Their topics include what Plato thought a god was, Proclus and the ancients, real atheism and Cambridge Platonism, W.
00--This work treats comprehensively seventeenth century Cambridge Platonism, but gives pride of place to the movement's practical philosophy.
The Cambridge Platonism of More and Cudworth came to be regarded as a dead end, the unfortunate last gasp of a religious metaphysics that was no longer of significance.
Temple spoke and wrote in the tradition of Cambridge Platonism, the assumption that we work as rational creatures in a rational universe.
They consider such aspects as whether there is room for political philosophy in postmodern critical Augustinianism, Duns Scotus and Suarez at the origins of modernity, Cambridge Platonism and Milbank's romantic Christian cabala, Milbank's Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Derrida and nihilism.
He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the original seat of the Cambridge Platonism.
Chapter 4 argues that Cambridge Platonism represents the 'decisive turning point from the Reformation to the Enlightenment in seventeenth-century England" (p.

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