Stockholm History of Philosophy Workshop: Noa Shein (Ben-Gurion University)


Date: Friday 29 September 2023

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700

Henry More, Descartes and Spinoza and the Charge of Materialistic Atheism


Henry More (1614 – 1687) corresponded with Descartes and devoted two books to the criticism of Spinoza’s philosophy. In his writings More argues that Cartesianism and Spinozism lead to atheism. At the same time, while he holds Descartes in high esteem, the same can not be said of his estimation of Spinoza. Why is his attitude toward each of these philosophers so different? I will argue that More perceived Spinoza’s views to be more threatening to his own than those of Descartes for the following reason; More articulated several important criticisms of Descartes’ metaphysics that Spinoza seems to be in a good position to answer. That is, Spinoza can be seen as amending Descartes in precisely the way that it would answer More’s key criticisms yet do so without requiring a God who creates. Not only that, but it does so by coming too close for comfort to key aspects of More’s own views. A broader claim I will hint at is that it is Spinoza’s foundation for a viable physics that does not require a creative God which was regarded by More (and Newton) as particularly worrisome.