Is God a Mindless Vegetable? Cudworth on Stoic Theology

Intellectual History Review 21 (2):121-133 (2011)


In the sixteenth century the Stoics were deemed friends of humanist Christians, but by the eighteenth century they were attacked as atheists. What happened in the intervening period? In the middle of this period falls Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), which contains a sustained analysis of Stoic theology. In Cudworth’s complex taxonomy Stoicism appears twice, both as a form of atheism and an example of imperfect theism. Whether the Stoics are theists or atheists hinges on whether their God is conscious and intelligent, or alive but unconscious like a plant or vegetable. Is God sentient or is he a mindless vegetable?

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John Sellars
Royal Holloway University of London

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Cudworth on Freewill.Matthew A. Leisinger - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (1):1-25.
Salving the Phenomena of Mind: Energy, Hegemonikon, and Sympathy in Cudworth.Sarah Hutton - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (3):465-486.
The Dual Aspects Theory of Truth.Benjamin Jarvis - 2012 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42 (3-4):209-233.
Vitalistic Approaches to Life in Early Modern England.Veronika Szanto - 2015 - Teorie Vědy / Theory of Science 37 (2):209-230.

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