CFP: Vitalism in Early Modern Philosophy

Submission deadline: January 1, 2019

Conference date(s):
March 29, 2019 - March 30, 2019

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Conference Venue:

Emmanuel college, Cambridge University
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Topic areas


Early modern philosophy is often viewed as characterized by a crucial transition from the vitalist natural philosophy of the Renaissance to the new mechanistic natural philosophy of the seventeenth century. However, vitalism in fact continued to thrive in the early modern period, particularly in the writings of a group of philosophers associated with Cambridge Platonism. Thinkers such as Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Ralph Cudworth, and Henry More each developed their own distinctive form of vitalism, and collectively provided a powerful counterpoint to Cartesian mechanism. But while all these philosophers were united in their deep commitment to the irreducibility and universality of life, the details of their respective views vary considerably. Whereas Cavendish and Conway, for instance, proposed monist frameworks to ground their vitalism, Cudworth and More remained wedded to a dualist metaphysics. Moreover, while early modern vitalism is perhaps most prominent in the writings of the Cambridge Platonists, it also left its mark on numerous other philosophers of the period such as Leibniz and Spinoza. 

This conference proposes to examine vitalism as a philosophical movement in the early modern period. We invite contributions on any form of early modern vitalism, as well as on the various metaphysical, moral, and theological considerations underlying it. We particularly encourage contributions from junior scholars. In addition to free accommodation, two travel bursaries of £300 each will be available for junior scholars.

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract (max. 600 words) for a 45-minute presentation by January 1, 2019. Please email an anonymized pdf, along with a separate cover sheet listing the author’s name, the title of the paper, address, telephone, email address, and institutional affiliation to Applicants will be notified by January 15, 2019.

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