Reason and Beauty in Cambridge Platonism

Aug 4, 2020
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A webinar lecture with Douglas Hedley (University of Cambridge). Part of our summer webinar series on "Reason and Beauty in Renaissance Christian Thought and Culture," presented in collaboration with the American Cusanus Society
The Cambridge Platonists are the first modern Platonists. They are a group of English philosophers around the University of Cambridge in the seventeenth-century, in the context of reformed theology and the English Civil War. Yet while accepting the New Science of Copernicus and Galileo, they offer a fierce protest against mechanism and naturalism. Their notion of aesthetics and beauty--as historian Ernst Cassirer correctly saw--was one of the sources of the later Romantic movement. Their aesthetics has a theological foundation. As one of the Cambridge Platonists, Benjamin Whichcote (d. 1683) wrote: “There is that in God that is more beautiful than power, than will and Sovereignty, viz. His righteousness, His good-will, His justice, wisdom and the like’. In this webinar, Professor Douglas Hedley will discuss the Cambridge Platonists' thought on beauty and its theological dimension that is tied to a distinctly Platonic theory of enthusiasm or inspiration and that came to be a shaping force in 18th century thought.

2020 Summer Webinar Series on "Reason and Beauty in Renaissance Christian Thought and Culture"

What do reason and beauty have to do with each other? Since the modern Enlightenment and Romantic movements, it has been tempting to see reason and beauty as separate or even opposed. In the Renaissance, however, rational and artistic pursuits bloomed together and even fed each other. Renaissance culture, including fine art, poetry, architecture, astronomy, and humanistic thought, both drew upon and extended ancient and medieval Christian intellectual traditions. This webinar course will examine different aspects of renaissance Christian thought and culture to explore how pursuits of reason interwove with the love of beauty.

This event is cosponsored by the Beatrice InstituteCalvert House, the Genealogies of Modernity Project, the Harvard Catholic Center, the Nova Forum for Catholic Thought, and St. Paul's Catholic Center.