Cambridge Platonists

Also found in: Wikipedia.

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 classic literature ?
In English philosophy too, many affinities may be traced, not only in the works of the Cambridge Platonists, but in great original writers like Berkeley or Coleridge, to Plato and his ideas.
Bosworth views this book as a product of "the nascent climate of latitudinarianism in religion and political thought, and of the tentative assertion of rationality as a principle of religious enquiry, which characterize the Restoration and which find their earliest expression in the works of the Cambridge Platonists and John Locke" (p.
Here the contributors explore de Maistre's appreciation and utilization of the Cambridge Platonists (specifically Henry More and Ralph Cudworth); his criticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose literary characters served as foils to his own religious outlook; and the striking similarities between the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer's view of the Enlightenment and de Maistre's, even though no evidence exists that the former read the latter.
The other was associated with the Cambridge Platonists who saw humans as "intrinsically attuned to God" and man's inward nature was in tune with the universe.
In his crucial Trinitarian context Young uses the term "Energy" as do such Cambridge Platonists as John Smith, who states that "Grace" is not "feeble," for "by a mighty Energy within itself it is always soaring" heavenward as the soul becomes more "God-like" (192, 166; cf.
More specifically, papers address Maistre's genius, his critique of America, the Cambridge Platonists, Schopenhauer and Maistre as enemies of the Enlightenment, why Maistre became Ultramontane, and the pedagogical nature of Maistre's thought, among other topics.
With the help of the classics, which he had studied in depth, he reinvented the old tradition of the theologia prisca, merged it with a mysticism that was shaped by his mentor Fenelon and the Cambridge Platonists, and rationalized such findings with the philosophical language of Spinoza, Malebranche, Bayle, Wolff, and Newton.
In his discussion of the Cambridge Platonists Gill explains their Calvinist upbringing and ultimate rejection of a basic tenet of Calvinism, the claim that human beings possess a deeply depraved nature.
Here one finds spiritual biographies of people who witnessed to and debated the Christian faith, from Puritans and Cambridge Platonists to the spiritual Quaker John Gratton.
Appearing in the last chapter, Menasseh ben Israel, in the seventeenth-century Amsterdam to which he fled with his family, argues with his contemporaries, the Cambridge Platonists, against the growing skepticism of that time.
In opposition to such enthusiasts, who would divide Christians by introducing such strife, the Cambridge Platonists argued for a Christianity based upon a common set of shared moral principles.
One of the best examples of the generative idea and of time-binding, it passes down the centuries in the works of the Neo-Platonists, the Cambridge Platonists, the Schelling school of German Idealists, Coleridge and Carlyle in England, to its chief American adapter, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Full browser ?