Cudworth on superintellectual instinct as inclination to the good

David Leech*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
381 Downloads (Pure)


Stephen Darwall notes that for Cudworth the fundamental ethical motive is love, but that the Cambridge Platonist tells us little about love’s character, aim and object (The British Moralists and the Internal ‘Ought’, 1640–1740). In this article I examine Cudworth’s doctrine of ‘superintellectual instinct’ as a natural love for or inclination to the good as it takes shape in two of his unpublished freewill manuscripts (BL MS Additional 4980 and 4982). I show that in these manuscripts he assumes a threefold model of how this higher love as a natural or ‘created’ grace fits into the overall moral life of a person, together with human free will and special grace. I argue that although Cudworth adopts an Origenist synergistic position on the question of the relationship between grace and free will, stating that special grace is a necessary condition of salvation conjointly with free will and creation grace, in reality he struggles to show the strict necessity of special grace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-970
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2017


  • Cudworth
  • love
  • Pelagianism
  • grace
  • free will


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