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Plato Democritans: The Ancient Cabbala Revived

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

Abstract

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

Keywords

Ontological Argument Intellectual Humility Gifted Mathematician Liberal Academic Infinite Universe 
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Notes

  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
  2. 2.
    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
  5. 5.
    See below, Chapter 6.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Malloch, Finch and Baines: 22–29.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Malloch, Finch and Baines, pp.61ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    On the Conways, see below. On Finch, see DNB, and an edition of his treatise currently being prepared by myself, Scott Mandelbrote and Sarah Hutton. The manuscripts are held in the Leicestershire Record Office, “Finch Papers”, DG7, Box 4976, Lit.9, and DG7, Box 4978, Lit 34. Lit.9 (the treatise). The treatise, which is unfinished, runs to some 600 pages, and was incorrectly listed as being the work of Daniel Finch, John Finch’s more illustrious nephew. There are also many interesting citations from Finch’s letters and manuscripts in Malloch, Finch and Baines, and information about his embassy in G.F. Abbot, Under the Turk at Constantinople: A Record of John Finch’s Embassy (1920).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See below, and for example, Finch, [Treatise]: 93 (Lib.III,cap.I), which appears to be a direct criticism of More’s attempts to define incorporeal substances.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See Malloch, Finch and Baines: 47–9, and Nicolson: 270–2, Letter 152 below, and see also Chapter below.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    On the general significance of these letters and their background, see Hutton’s “Introduction”, Nicolson: vii-xxix. Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid, esp. 39–51, and Hutton, “Introduction”, in Nicolson: x-xi. See also A.P. Coudert, T. Corse (eds), Anne Conway, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP, 1996): “Introduction”: vii ff..Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See A. Coudert, “Henry More, the Kabbalah and the Quakers”, in A. Ashcraft, A. Kroll, P. Zagorin (eds), Philosophy, Science and Religion in England, 1650–1700 (Cambridge: CUP, 1992), chapter 2.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See for example below, Appendix, Letter 36, (2 November, 1651), where More enjoins her to secrecy concerning their correspondence, and Letter 77 (7 January, 1656) and 78 (February 1656), where, perhaps moved by her declining health, he declares his love for her.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    On Edward Conway, see DNB, and Hutton, “Introduction”, Nicolson: ix-x, and ibid: 5–6.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See Hutton, Ibid, and also Ian Roy, “The Libraries of Edward, Second Viscount Conway, an Inventory and Valuation of 1643”, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research,41 (1968): 35–46, which is indicative of why More should have held these men in such high regard.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See IS (1659), “The Epistle Dedicatory” (to Edward Conway), which refers to them reading Descartes’ Passions together while in Paris in 1656 (Nicolson: 113ff.)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    A possible exception is More’s young friend, John Davies, DD (d.1718), who was present at More’s death, and whom Ward, a one-time curate for Davies, describes as More’s “passionate friend and lover” (See Ward: 382).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See especially the early letters dealing with Cartesianism and Platonism, Letters Appendix, below.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nicolson: 49; see also 47–50.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sheffield University Library, Hartlib Papers, 180.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    C. Webster, “Henry More and Descartes: Some New Sources”, BJHS (1969): 359–77.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See Webster, Instauration: and Webster, Samuel Hartlib and the Advancement of Learning (Cambridge: CUP, 1970), Introduction; on Boyle’s relations to the Hartlib circle, and its powerful impact on him, see Michael Hunter, Robert Boyle,1627–1691: Scrupulousity and Science (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2000): 44 ff.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    In October, 1649, (Letter 19) More was already in contact with John Pell, then Professor of Mathematics at Breda, and it seems likely that over the next ten years he made a number of contacts in Holland. See below, Letter 123 ff, and R.L. Colie, Light and Enlightenment (Cambridge: CUP, 1957).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See Webster, “Henry More and Descartes”, and also Letters 1–2, Appendix, below.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    The best and fullest treatment is by Gabbey, who is to publish an English edition of the correspondence. See also Nicolson, “Early Stages”, S.P., 26 (1929): 356–74; A. Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1968), chapter 5; Staudenbaur, “Metaphysical Works” p.189 ff.; P.M.L. Moir, “The Natural Philosophy of Henry More” (unpublished M.Litt dissertation, Cambridge, 1967), chapter 2; and Webster, “Henry More and Descartes”Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    See Principia: I xlviii-l; and see M.J. Osier, “Eternal Truths and the Laws of Nature. The theological Foundations of Descartes’ Philosophy of Nature.” JHI 46 (1985): 351, on the theological `intellectualism’ informing Descartes’ enterprise. See also her “Triangulating the Divine Will: Henry More, Robert Boyle, and René Descartes on God’s Relationship to the Creation”, in M. Baldi (ed), “Mind Senior to the World”: Stoicismo e origenismo nello filosofia platonica del Seicento inglese (Milan, Franco Angeli, 1996): 75–87.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    See below.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    “Preface to the Reader”, PP (1647): sig.B.3. See also EE: III iv 3. The work by Digby is Two Treatises; In the one of which, the Nature of Bodies; in the other, the Nature of Mans Soul…(1645). Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    The best and fullest treatment is by Gabbey, who is to publish an English edition of the correspondence. See also Nicolson, “Early Stages”, S.P., 26 (1929): 356–74; A. Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1968), chapter 5; Staudenbaur, “Metaphysical Works” p.189 ff.; P.M.L. Moir, “The Natural Philosophy of Henry More” (unpublished M.Litt dissertation, Cambridge, 1967), chapter 2; and P. Cristofolini, (1974).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See below, Appendix, especially Letters 20 ff.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Cristofolini, Cartesiani e sociniani (1974), and Descartes, A Discourse of a Method (1649).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    See the commonplace book preserved with the Finch papers, that gives some indication of how More taught philosophy, and also the long letters to Anne Conway discussing his translations of Descartes, below, Appendix. Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    See Alexander Jacob, “Introduction” in Jacob (ed) Henry More, Immortality of the Soul (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1987): lxviii ff.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    See More, Epistola ad VC (1662), sect.1 ff., an assumption fairly typical of the period.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See Gabbey, “Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata”: 173–5.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    See below, chapter.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Gabbey, “Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata”: 189–92.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    More to Hartlib, Dec.11,1648, in Webster, BJHS 4 (1969): 365. See also the Preface to DP (1646); Epistola ad VC (1662), sect.1 ff.; and Gabbey, “Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata”: 189–90.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    This was reprinted separately in 1664, and then appended to More’s very popular Enchiridion Ethicum (1667), which ran through many editions, ensuring that his criticisms of Descartes attained a large audience.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    More to Descartes, in Adam and Tannery, V (1974), (1st letter, Dec.11, 1648): 238–40, 242–3; and (2nd letter, March 5, 1649): 299–300; and More, Epistola ad VC (1662), sect.5. See also Koyré, Closed World (1968): 111, and Gabbey, “Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata”: 191–2. A similar argument can be found in a letter to Anne Conway, May, 1651, Letter 21, Appendix below.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    See IS I vii.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    See DP, and D.P. Massa, “Giordano Bruno and…Henry More.” (unpublished PhD dissertation, Edinburgh, 1974): 365 ff., who highlights the currency of these ideas in the works of Nicholas Hill and others, leading up to the time More composed his poem. See More to Descartes, in Koyré, Closed World (1968): 113–4; and below.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Descartes to More, Adam and Tannery, V (1974), (1st reply, Feb.5, 1649): 271–2; and (2nd reply, April 16, 1649): 243; and Epistola ad VC, sect. 5.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Descartes to More, Adam and Tannery, V (1974), (1st reply, Feb.5, 1649):.273–4.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Particularly in his IS. See Jacob’s Introduction to his edition (1987), and Cottingham, Descartes (1986): 120–7.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    More to Descartes, Adam and Tannery, V (1974), (2nd letter, March 5,1649): 313–4, and (4th letter, Oct.21, 1649): 437–8; and IS (1659), I iv 3.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    More to Descartes, in Adam and Tannery, V (1974), (1st letter, Dec.11, 1648): 243–4, and (2nd letter, March 5, 1649): 310–11; and Epistola ad VC, sect.4. See also L.D. Cohen, “Descartes and Henry More on the Beast-Machine”, AS 1 (1936): 48–61; and Cottingham, Descartes (1986): 108–1H.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See below, next chapter.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    CC, The Philosophical Cabbala, I 6 and I 8; and The Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala. (1712): 76–9. See also Plotinus, IV iii 9.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Epistola ad VC, sects.4; and CSPW (1662), Preface General: xi.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    More’s sermon on this is preserved in Discourses: 85–118.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Hence the rather extravagant comparison of Descartes to Bezaliel and Aholiab [Exodus, xxxv 32], the inspired architects of the Temple, in the Appendix to The Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala., I 8.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Preface General, in CSPW (1712): xii.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    The Appendix to The Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala, I 8; and compare Epistola ad VC (1662), sects.11 and 31. See also Gabbey, “Philosophia”: 205.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    This is ‘Moschus’ the Sidonian. See the discussion concerning his role in the tradition, and More’s reply to the doubts cast on it by Isaac Casaubon at the beginning of this section, Ibid. Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    AA: I iii ff. Compare Descartes: Principia: I xiii ff., in Haldane and Ross (1981), vol.1: 224. See also the discussion in Mackinnon, Philosophical Works (1925): 297–8. For another contemporary version of this argument, more directly taken from Descartes, see W. Charleton, The Darkness of Atheism Dispelled (1652): I 3–4. More later denied that he had taken the argument from Descartes, pointing out that he had been aware of it for some time. EM: Preface, sect.3.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    AA: I v-vi. Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    AA: I vi i-4. See also EE: I xii 7.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    IS: II ii 10 (against Hobbes). See below, chapter 7, on More’s polemic against Hobbes.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    CC (1653): Preface v; and see AA: I vi 3; and IS: I ii 2–4, Axioms 1 and 3. Compare Descartes Principia: I xiii. Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    It is clear that for More this was the divine Goodness. See EE: II ix 9 ff. and below.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    IS: Iii 8 ff., and see Mackinnon, Philosophy (1925): 299.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    AA: 1 viii 4 ff.; and EE: III iv 3; and Descartes, Principia: 1 xiv-xv. Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    CC,The Philosophical Cabbala: i,1. See also The Defence (1712): 75–6.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    CC: Preface.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    See EE: I iii 4; and II v 4–7.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    EE: I xii 7; and II ii 7; and MI: part 1, II ii 9 and13.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    See Ml: part 1, II iv 4.Google Scholar
  70. 79.
    As Paolo Cristofolini argues in some detail, in his Cartesiani e sociniani: studio su Henry More (Urbino, 1974).Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    See EM: ii, and below.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Op.cit, in Two Choice and Useful Treatises (1682): 247.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    EM: i 1:“Metaphysica est Ars recte contemplandi res Incorporeas quatenus e Lumine Naturae Facultatibus nostris innotescunt. Itaque Metaphysica Theologia quasi quaedam Naturalis est.“Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    EM: ii 1–3.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    EM: ii 3–4. This was the ‘ars logica’.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Antipsychopannychia: Preface.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    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
  78. 78.
    GMG: I i 1. See the discussion below.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    See DD (1668), vol. I, Preface: xiii; and see the Scholia on the Appendix to The Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala 18, in CSPW (1712): 116. See also the discussion below, chapter.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    See Epistola ad VC (1662), sect. 6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

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

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