Full Text

Cudworth, Ralph


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Ralph Cudworth (1617–88) was one of the most important religious and philosophical thinkers of the seventeenth century. He was, with Henry More, the most significant of the Cambridge Platonists, whose tolerant, rational Christianity inspired the Latitudinarian movement. Cudworth wrote much, but published few books in his lifetime. His major work, the dauntingly erudite The true intellectual system of the universe (published 1678), presents a coherent anti-determinist philosophy but was never completed as planned. He published a handful of sermons, the most famous being his sermon preached before the House of Commons in 1647. His unpublished manuscripts are devoted mainly to the subject of free will. Some of these were published posthumously: A treatise concerning eternal and immutable morality in 1731, and Of freewill in 1848. Although dubbed a Platonist, he drew on a wide knowledge of ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism. This humanistic dimension of his thought belies his philosophical modernity, evidenced by his debt to René Descartes. Although critical of some aspects of Cartesianism, he used Descartes's concept of body as inert extension as a premise for dualism on the grounds that since corporeality is by definition passive, it is necessary to posit an active immaterial agent, that is mind or spirit, to explain life, thought, and motion. Cudworth's philosophy responds ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top