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More, Henry

MORE, HENRY

(b. Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, October 1614; d. Cambridge, England, 1 September 1687)

philosophy, theology.

The youngest child of Alexander More, a fairly prosperous gentleman and several times mayor of Grantham, Henry More was educated at Grantham School, Eton, and Christ’s College, Cambridge, from which he graduated B.A. in 1636. In 1639 he received the M.A., took orders, and was appointed a fellow of his college—which position he held, refusing preferment, all his life. More became doctor of divinity in 1660 and was elected fellow of the Royal Society on 25 May 1664. (He had been among the original fellows under the first charter but was omitted when the Society was refounded.)

In theology More was a moderate latitudinarian, known for piety and an almost saintly nature. He wrote extensively against sectarians and enthusiasts, for their uncharitable doctrinal wrangling and their depreciation of reason in religion, and against the Roman Catholic Church, on the usual contemporary grounds. He concerned himself particularly with the interpretation of prophetic and apocalyptic Scriptures.

In the history of philosophy More is counted among the Cambridge Platonists. His “Platonism” was rather vague and highly eclectic; its basic themes were those of the middle Platonists and Neoplatonists, and he found them in a great variety of ancient thinkers, including Democritus, Hermes Trismegistus, and Moses. The central point is the primacy of spirit over matter. Dissatisfaction with the scholastic fare of his undergraduate studies led More to turn briefly to the ascetic-mystical side of Neoplatonism: true knowledge requires spiritual purification, and devotion is more important than learning. Both doctrines were soon greatly moderated, as his bent for philosophy (including natural philosophy) reasserted itself. Under the influence of the Theologia Germanica, More came to emphasize moral goodness over asceticism; and the “spiritual purification” idea had little real effect on his mature writings, unless in a certain tendency to overrate the rational perspicuity of arguments which have edifying conclusions.

A factor in More’s return to philosophy was his discovery, sometime before 1647, of Descartes, whose writings seemed to show how to combine a scientific interest in nature with a primary concern for vindi-cating the reality of God and immortal human souls. This suited More admirably: his interest in the new experimental philosophy was genuine (he was the only fellow of the Royal Society among the Cambridge Platonists), but he conceived his main philosophical mission to be the refutation of mechanistic materialism.

Appropriately, More’s first major work was An Antidote Against Atheisme (1652), one of the most prominent early responses to Thomas Hobbes. The first part of this three-part work is primarily an elaboration of the ontological argument as found in Descartes. The second part enumerates a great range of natural phenomena that can be understood only as showing a divine providence. This section provided the structure and core John Ray’s Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation, and thus considerably influenced the subsequent tradition of scientifically elaborated teleological arguments. Two points should be noted, however. First, relatively little of More’s argumentation really depends on contemporary science; the majority of his examples had been, or could have been, used in antiquity. Second, the comparison with machinery (such as the watch) is not made. The emphasis is, rather, on the usefulness to man or other creatures of various features of nature, and on phenomena which show the working of immaterial substances, such as an unintelligent “spirit of nature” which can be invoked to account for botches in nature as well as for phenomena (such as gravity and the formation of animals) which cannot be explained mechanically. The relation between this “spirit of nature” and the intelligent Designer remains unclear, but just showing the reality of spiritual agents is what More really cares about. Thus it is perfectly in accord with his design when he devotes the third part of his treatise to stories of witches, hauntings, and so on. These direct empirical evidences of the activities of spirits should convince those on whom the arguments of the first two sections are lost.

More’s opposition to mechanism eventually led him to a repudiation (in large part) of Descartes and a sad skirmish with Robert Boyle. In his early enthusiasm he had been instrumental in introducing Cartesian philosophy to England; but an unsatisfactory correspondence with Descartes, further reflection on his metaphysical principles, and observation of the path taken by Spinoza and other Cartesians convinced More that there were great dangers in Cartesianism. More was persuaded that to be, a thing must be somewhere; Descartes’s identification of matter with extension thus seemed to exclude spirits (including God) from reality. Therefore, in The Immortality of the Soul (1659) and Enchiridion metaphysicum (1671) More argued at length that spirits are extended. The defining characteristic of body is not extension but impenetrability and physical divisibility (“discerpibility”); spirits, More deduced, are by definition “indiscerpible” and capable of penetrating themselves, other spirits, and matter. He adds that bodies are passive and spirits are capable of initiating activity. If spirits are extended, God in particular is (infinitely) extended. More does not flinch from this consequence but, listing a long series of properties predicable both of God and of space, concludes that absolute space is an attribute of the substance, God; it is the medium in which God acts upon bodies.

The Immortality of the Soul is actually an elaborate treatise on the nature, kinds, and habits of spirits—by far More’s most systematic work—in which many doctrines of Descartes and others are criticized. It defies summary.

More consistently argued that gravity, magnetism, and various of Boyle’s experimental results in hydro-statics could not be accounted for mechanistically. In the Enchiridion metaphysicum he treated the latter point in detail, attempting with physical as well as metaphysical arguments to refute Boyle’s inter-pretation of his own experiments. Boyle found it necessary to demolish More’s efforts, carefully adding that one could be a great scholar without being a good hydrostatician. He patiently corrected More’s mistakes, pointed out that a mechanical explanation is one based on the laws of mechanics and need not (for instance) specify the cause of gravity, and suggested that the watchmaker version of the design argument is more effective than any that resort to such dubious entities as the spirit of nature. More was rather hurt but eager to maintain their friendship. Unlike Descartes, the Royal Society and its virtuosos were never even partially repudiated by More, who distinguished sharply between their “experimental philosophy” and the “mechanical philosophy” he combated.

The exchange with Boyle shows that More’s grasp of the new natural philosophy was limited. His interest was genuine, but he was himself no virtuoso. His main contributions lay in introducing generations of students to Descartes, in lending to the Royal Society the prestige of his great reputation for learning and piety, and (arguably) in his influence upon Newton. The nature and extent of that influence are hard to assess. It appears that More and Newton were well acquainted and perhaps close. More left Newton a funeral ring; a letter survives in which he good-humoredly reports to a friend that Newton stubbornly clings to a misinterpretation of a passage in the Apocalypse, which More thought he had corrected; Newton informs a correspondent that he had “engaged Dr More to be of” a “Philosophick Meeting” then proposed at Cambridge. E. A. Burtt and A. Koyré have argued powerfully that More influenced Newton’s views on space and on such matters as the (immaterial) cause of gravity. Certainly there are interesting parallels; other evidence for or against direct influence is, unfortunately, scarce.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Wokks. Philosophical Writings of Henry More, Flora I. MacKinnon, ed. (New York, 1925), contains a useful selection, with intro., extensive notes, and a bibliographv of works by and about More. For more recent bibliographical information see Aharon Lichtenstein, Henry More: The Rational Theology of a Cambridge Platonist (Cambridge, Mass., 1962).

II. Secondary Literature. Marjorie Nicolson, ed., Conway Letters (New Haven, 1930), has biographical information as well as letters. More’s views and their relation to those of Descartes and Newton are discussed by Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (Garden City, N.Y., 1955), esp. 135–148; and Alexandre Koyrá, From the Closed world to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, 1957), esp. 110–154, 190. On More’s relation to Hobbes, see Samuel I. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan (Cambridge, 1962), esp. 80–95; and on his relation to Boyle, see Robert A. Greene, “Henry More and Robert Boyle on the Spirit of Nature,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, 23 (1962), 451–474. Also of interest are C. A. Staudenbaur, “Galileo, Ficino, and Henry More’s Psychathanasia,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, 29 (1968), 565–578; and C. Webster, “Henry More and Descartes: Some New Sources,” in British Journal for the History of Science, 4 (1969), 359–377.

William H. Austin

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More, Henry (1614–1687)

MORE, HENRY (16141687)

MORE, HENRY (16141687), English philosopher. Henry More was the most prolific of the group of seventeenth-century thinkers known as the Cambridge Platonists. Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, he was educated at Eton College and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was elected fellow in 1641. Despite living through one of the most turbulent periods in English history, More retained his fellowship at Christ's during the English Civil War, Interregnum (16481660), and Restoration, devoting himself to a life of scholarship and publishing many works of philosophy and theology.

In his day More came to be regarded as one of England's leading contemporary philosophers. One of the first proponents of Cartesianism, he attacked Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza and was an enthusiast for the new science of Galileo and the Royal Society. His own philosophy owes much to Plato and Plotinus and is largely dedicated to the defense of religious belief against the twin forces of skepticism and atheism. Central to it is his philosophy of spirit, which underpins his arguments for demonstrating the existence and providential nature of God. More accounted for the operations of nature through his hypothesis of the Spirit of Nature or principium hylarchicum, analogous to Plato's world soul (anima mundi). His Platonism, first evident in his earliest writings, his Philosophical Poems (1647), was developed more fully in his Of the Immortality of the Soul (1659) and Enchiridion Metaphysicum (1671; Manual of metaphysics), in which he propounds the idea for which he is probably best known today: his concept of infinite space.

After repudiating predestinarian Calvinism in his youth, More subscribed to a tolerant Christianity that influenced the latitudinarian movement, which took a tolerant stance on doctrinal matters within the Church of England. Although he conformed at the Restoration (1660), he was nevertheless regarded as heterodox in High Church circles, principally on account of his adherence to Origen's doctrine of the preexistence of the soul. In his later years More was much preoccupied with the study of biblical prophecy and the Cabala, sharing this last interest with Franciscus Mercurius von Helmont (15791644) and the German scholar Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (16361689).

More's most famous pupil was Anne Conway (16311679), who owed her introduction to philosophy to him. Among those who came under his influence were the clergyman Joseph Glanvill (16361680), the philosopher John Norris (16571711), and the naturalist John Ray (16271705). He was also known to Isaac Newton and to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

See also Cabala ; Calvinism ; Cambridge Platonists ; Cartesianism ; Philosophy .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

More, Henry. A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings. Cambridge, U.K., 1662. Reprinted 1978.

. H. Mori Cantabrigiensis Opera Omnia. London, 16751679. Latin translation of all More's theological and philosophical works.

Nicolson, Marjorie H., ed. Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More and Their Friends, 164284. Revised by Sarah Hutton. Oxford, 1992. Important for biography and context.

Secondary Sources

Cassirer, Ernst. The Platonic Renaissance in England. Translated by James P. Pettegrove. Austin, 1953.

Hall, Rupert. Henry More: Magic, Religion and Experiment. Oxford, 1990. Biography with emphasis on history of science.

Hutton, Sarah, ed. Henry More, 16141687: Tercentenary Studies. Dordrecht, Netherlands, 1990. Articles providing the fullest coverage of the range of More's interests. Best bibliography of More.

Koyré, Alexandre. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore, 1957. More, Newton, and infinite space.

Sarah Hutton

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More, Henry

Henry More, 1614–87, English philosopher, one of the foremost representatives of the school of Cambridge Platonists. His writings emphasized the mystical and theosophic phases of that philosophy, and as he grew older mysticism dominated his writings. Newton studied under him, and his concept of space and time as "the sense organs of God" greatly influenced Newton's theory of absolute space and time. His chief works are Philosophical Poems (1647) and Divine Dialogues (1668).

See E. Cassirer, The Platonic Renaissance in England (tr. 1953); A. Lichtenstein, Henry More: The Rational Theology of a Cambridge Platonist (1962); G. R. Cragg, ed., The Cambridge Platonists (1985).

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More, Henry

More, Henry: see CAMBRIDGE PLATONISTS.

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