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Real Atheism And Cambridge Platonism: Men Of Latitude, Polemics, And The Great Dead Philosophers

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Chapter Summary

This chapter draws clear distinction between speculative atheism (SA) which is the denial of theism, that is to say the rejection of the transcendent personal and benevolent deity of the Christian-Platonic-Aristotelian tradition, and pragmatic atheism (PA). PA refers to the effective or covert denial of true theism. The Cambridge Platonists represent a form of radical Protestantism which was at once the heir of the Alexandrian tradition of Christian Platonism via Erasmus and, in particular, the notions of the Divine spark in the soul and deification in the mystical medieval tradition conveyed via the Theologia Germanica. In conclusion, while it is clear that the term "atheism" has particular connotations in the seventeenth century which we should be sensitive to, it seems implausible that atheism in the primary sense that we have designated in this chapter as SA should be associated, as Frederick Beiser argues, with the God of high Calvinism.

Keywords: Calvinism; Cambridge Platonism; polemics; pragmatic atheism (PA); speculative atheism (SA)



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