Autonomy and Human Dignity. Origen in Early Modern Philosophy
Edited by Alfons Fürst and Christian Hengstermann
Examining the thought of exemplary key philosophers of the era, the essay collection Autonomy and Human Dignity. Origen in early modern philosophy, the second volume of the Adamantiana series edited by the Origen Research Centre in Münster, traces the church father’s reception in European humanism in the 15th and 16th, in English Platonism in the 17th and in German Idealism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Origen’s concept of freedom is instrumental in shaping the modern notion of human autonomy and dignity. After the humanists Pico della Mirandola, John Colet and Erasmus of Rotterdam, it is the Cambridge Platonists who, following in their footsteps, take up Origenian theology to combat the nascent naturalism of early modern philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Baruch de Spinoza. In a survey of the English Platonists’ appropriation of Origen in moral and religious philosophy, Ralph Cudworth, Henry More and Anne Conway are shown to reformulate key insights of the church father’s Platonism, including his anti-voluntarist notion of the Trinity, his doctrine of the soul’s pre-existence and his universal soteriology, in the light of the early modern debates on Arianism as well as determinism and naturalism. Not only did the Cambridge Platonists create a new theological paradigm based on Origen’s liberal Christian philosophy, but also paved the way for the historic religious philosophies of the Enlightenment and German Idealism.
The Cambridge Origenists. George Rust’s Letter of Resolution Concerning Origen and the Chief of His Opinions
Edited by Alfons Fürst and Christian Hengstermann
Not only are the years between 1658–1662 an era of important political change, but also “an Origenist moment in English theology” (Sarah Hutton). Besides a major edition of Origen’s highly influential Contra Celsum, Cambridge Platonism at that time produced entire religious philosophies informed by Origen’s metaphysical genius, culminating in the works of Henry More and his pupils at Christ’s College and Ragley Hall. Undoubtedly, the crowning achievement of Cambridge Origenism is the later bishop George Rust’s Letter of Resolution Concerning Origen and the Chief of His Opinions, which, published anonymously in 1661, sparked heated discussions on the soul’s pre-existence and fall and the restoration of all things at once. It offers both the first sustained defence of Origenism ever and a daring manifesto of the Cambridge Platonists’ liberal early modern moral and religious philosophy. To this end, Rust, engaging in a critical dialogue with the new philosophies of René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes and Calvinistic theology throughout, adopts basic insights of Origen’s theology, elaborating upon them in the light of the crucial controversies of his day. The fourth volume of the Adamantiana series gives a systematic reappraisal of Cambridge Origenism at large as well as an in-depth study of its key work, the anonymous Letter of Resolution. Its historical introduction and its six treatises on Origen’s “chief doctrines” are all analyzed in detail and with regard both to the use of sources and the systematic merit in the fields of ethics and metaphysics. Moreover, the volume includes a representative selection of key texts of the leading Cambridge Origenists Henry More, George Rust and Joseph Glanvill, which are given both in modernized spelling and with first German translations.
reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Review which begins:
“Taliaferro’s book could be fairly described as the world viewed from the perspective of the seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonists (Henry More, Ralph Cudworth and others), elegantly updated to take account of contemporary philosophical and cultural challenges to that view.”
‘”Educational Influence”: A New Model for Understanding Tutorial Relationships in Seventeenth-Century Oxbridge’, History of Universities, 27:2 (2013).
‘Henry Hallywell (1641-1703): A Sussex Platonist’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 151 (2013).
‘“The Messiah Promised in the Sacred Scripture came a Long Time Ago”: The Cambridge Platonists’ Attitudes towards the Readmission of the Jews, 1655-6’, Jewish Historical Studies: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 45 (2013).
‘Pastoral Platonism in the Writings of Henry Hallywell (1641-1703)’, The Seventeenth Century, 28:4, 441-463 (2013).
Sarah Hutton has recently updated the article ‘The Cambridge Platonists’ on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website. Changes will take effect soon.
Robert Pasnau has carried out important recent work on the metaphysics of More and Conway. This work is an invaluable contribution to analysis of Cambridge Platonist positions.
See also Pasnau’s important article “Mind and Extension (Descartes, Hobbes, More),” in H. Lagerlund and O. Pluta (eds.) Forming the Mind (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), available at his homepage: http://spot.colorado.edu/~pasnau/inprint/