Trinity, Community and Love: Cudworth’s Platonism and the Idea of God
I want to argue that Ralph Cudworth’s analysis of the thesis that God is love, his account of the Trinity, and his notions of community and toleration in a broad church all go together. They cast light on the precise sense in which it is right to claim him as a Platonist and, more importantly, they provide clues to the possibility of a non-relativist pluralism.Cudworth’s basic view is that divinity is a principle which is ‘expressed’—the word he uses in British Library Additional Manuscript 4982—through us and above all through the three persons of the Trinity.2 The principle is single, and divine in essence. This essence is love. He says that God is love, ‘if by it be meant, eternal, self-originated, intellectual Love, or essential and substantial goodness, that having an infinite, overflowing fullness and fecundity dispenses itself uninvidiously, according to the best wisdom, sweetly governs all, without any force or violence … and reconciles the whole world into harmony’. His final judgement is that ‘love in some rightly qualified sense, is God’.We should notice that while ‘God is love’ is a commonplace, Cudworth’s final formulation ‘love … is God’ is not. The reality is love and it cannot be exhausted in any of its particular expressions. The ‘rightly qualified sense’ must be understood, however. This love is the nature of substantial goodness and it is intellectual because it makes the world intelligible. But it is not merely intellectual like Spinoza’s. It includes true emotions which ‘sweetly govern’ and the gentle natural justice conveyed by ‘uninvidiously’. So, genuine love can tie individual beings together while preserving their independence.
KeywordsHigh Nature Mental Causality British Library Plastic Nature Divine Love
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