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The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 19, 1999

Jennifer A. Herdt
Pages 47-68

Cudworth, Autonomy and the Love of God
Transcending Enlightenment (and Anti-Enlightenment) Christian Ethics

Recent attempts by Christian ethicists to mine the tradition of Christian Platonism have overlooked seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth. Cudworth's significance lies in his creative extension of Christian Platonism in response to the early modern situation of religious conflict. He develops an account of autonomy as the self-rule of the "redoubled soul," while retaining a teleological account of the soul's final end as participation in God. Cudworth can help contemporary Christian ethicists imagine a way beyond pro-Enlightenment secular accounts of autonomy and anti-Enlightenment rejections of autonomy in the name of tradition.