The present paper investigates Ralph Cudworth’s reception of Plotinus against the background of Cudworth’s anti-mechanist polemic. Cudworth’s account of plastic nature is clearly indebted to Plotinus (see, in particular, Plotinus’ treatise III.8 On Nature and Contemplation and the One). Both Plotinus and Cudworth argue that motion, life and thought cannot be traced back to matter and require an incorporeal principle. The differences, however, are very important too. Unlike what happens in Cudworth, the rejection of atomism and mechanism plays no central role in Plotinus (the polemic against mechanism is obviously linked to the typical debates on physics in Cudworth’s times); conversely, Plotinus’ gradualist metaphysics and emanative causation are foreign to Cudworth, who regards these views as jeopardising the transcendence of God and the Christian view of creation. That said, Cudworth’s reading of Plotinus against the background of Descartes’ dualism of thought and extension is sensitive to some key aspects of Plotinus’ metaphysics such as the account of incorporeal and intelligible causes. In this respect, Cudworth’s reading is characteristically different from Ficino’s interpretation of Plotinus and his later reception in authors such as Tommaso Campanella.
Chiaradonna, R. (2022). ‘The Operation of Nature Is Different from Mechanism’: Cudworth’s Account of Plastic Nature and Its Plotinian Background. In C. Wolfe (a cura di), Mechanism, Life and Mind in Modern Natural Philosophy (pp. 103-118). Cham : Springer [10.1007/978-3-031-07036-5_7].