Philosophy

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Cudworth and Descartes

Joshua C. Gregory

Ralph Cudworth, Doctor of Divinity, Master of Christ’s College at Cambridge, and philosophical chieftain of the Cambridge Platonists, published The True Intellectual System of the Universe in 1678 to disprove “the fatal necessity of all actions and events.” This disproof would destroy the various atheisms founded upon such “fatal necessity”; it would also correct those Christians who mistakenly honoured God by subjecting men to a divinely administered fate. Cudworth, with a constant eye on Hobbes, whom he did not name, struck at atheism by establishing a “true intellectual system” and by arguing away its principle of fate. His design swelled as he worked to meet the various versions of “fatal necessity” with the various atheisms founded upon them, to establish the true doctrine, and to accommodate his own copious learning, and it swelled too much for the published work to be more than a first instalment of his whole design.