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.