The concept of grace in Ralph Cudworth's unpublished Freewill Manuscripts

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In Cudworth’s view, it is God’s love which makes morality possible, and true righteousness is not attainable by free will alone but only with the assistance of divine grace. However, he has little to say about grace in his published works. By contrast, he discusses grace at some length in a large collection of manuscript writings on the topic of free will, most of which remain unpublished (British Library Additional MSS 4978-4982). In my examination of what Cudworth has to say about divine grace in these manuscripts, I argue that despite the fact that he seeks to justify the necessary role of grace at some length in these writings, Cudworth nevertheless struggles to give a satisfactory account of why humans’ freewilled effort is only a necessary but not also a sufficient condition of the achievement of true righteousness. On this picture, it begins to look like special grace, understood as a power breaking into humans’ lives from without to assist them towards moral goodness, has become superfluous. Verbally Cudworth can claim that he preserves a necessary, and the larger, role for grace, but this is at the cost of collapsing special grace into the ‘natural’ graces (including human freewill) which God has created by his general providence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-43
Number of pages19
JournalStudia z Historii Filozofii
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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