Plato Democritans: The Ancient Cabbala Revived

  • Robert Crocker
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 185)


At the time of his controversy with Vaughan, More was a leading member of a small but growing band of younger, anti-dogmatic, anti-scholastic, theologically liberal academics at Cambridge, with a keen interest in classical and Christian Platonism and the new natural philosophy.1 His intellectually challenging and intricate Platonic poems, republished in 1647 with his learned commentaries, were also widely admired, and he became renown for incorporating these interests in his teaching, in the process gathering around him a small group of pupils or former pupils, who shared his interests in this rational and moral Platonism and Cartesianism. Foremost amongst his own pupils at Christ’s in the late 1640s were George Rust and John Sharp, who went on to influential careers in the Church after the Restoration, and John Finch, the son of Heneage Finch, Recorder of the City of London and Speaker of the House of Commons.2 Through Finch More met Anne, later Viscountess Conway, Finch’ s younger half-sister,3 and through More Finch was introduced not only to philosophy and contemporary natural thought, but through his brief residence at Christ’s, to his life-long friend and companion Thomas Baines.4 The Finch and Conway families became good friends to More, and important patrons of both himself and his Platonist friends, including Ralph Cudworth, probably protecting them from their High Church opponents after the Restoration.5


Ontological Argument Intellectual Humility Gifted Mathematician Liberal Academic Infinite Universe 
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  1. 1.
    See C. Webster, The Great Instauration (London: Duckworth, 1975) and John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of Enlightenment (Cambridge: CUP, 1989).Google Scholar
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    See Peile under Rust and Sharp, and also DNB; see under Heneage and John Finch, DNB; John was the fourth child and third son of Heneage Finch; see Nicolson: 1–5; and also A. Malloch, Finch and Baines (Cambridge: CUP, 1917): 1–3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Anne was the second surviving daughter of Heneage Finch’s second marriage. Nicolson draws a rather misleading, overly romantic portrait of John Finch as `an ineffectual angel’; see for example Nicolson: 3. Malloch’s account, despite its evident age, is a useful antidote. But both Finch and Conway, father and son, remain neglected figures, as Sarah Hutton points out, “Introduction”, Nicolson: viii-x.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nicolson, ibid, and Malloch, Finch and Baines: 3–4. Baines (1622–1680) was slightly older than Finch (1626–82), and appeared to More to represent an ideal kind of Platonic friendship, although he appears in his letters to be irritated by Baines’ resolute adherence to a sceptical materialism. See Sarah Hutton’s article on Finch, DNB. Google Scholar
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    See below, Chapter 6.Google Scholar
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  52. 52.
    More’s sermon on this is preserved in Discourses: 85–118.Google Scholar
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    Antipsychopannychia: Preface.Google Scholar
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    Antidote: I iv 3; and see I xi, and True Notion, and below. One of More’s later logical criticisms of Descartes was that he had deduced the idea of the `necessary’ existence of Matter (Principia,II i ff.) from its idea in the mind, and thus in doing so had undermined his earlier proof for the existence of God from his `idea’ (Principia: I xii-xx), whose logical priority to Matter was in this way threatened. See EM: Preface, sect.4.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Crocker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AustraliaAustralia

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