London: Richard Royston, 1678. First Edition. Folio, pp. (22), 899, (1, blank), 84 pp. Title-page printed in red and black, engraved title by White after Caespers depicts the debate between theists (represented by Pythagoras, Aristotle and Socrates) and atheists (represented by Anaximander, Strato and Epicurus), with a label confusion above the Atheists and a label Victory above the Theists. Bound with: A DISCOURSE CONCERNING THE TRUE NOTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER, to which are added two sermons I John Chap. 2. Ver. 3,4. I Corinth. 15.57. by R. Cudworth. London: Royston, 1676. pp. [ii], 36. (Wing C7468). The two works bound in contemporary folio, rebacked at an early date, worn, spine chipped, some foxing and minor soiling, generally a good sound copy. 19th century ownership signature on the edge of the title-page. Nice clean wide margins. All published. Part two was intended to be an attack against Calvinism, while the third part was an exposition of a theory of free will. Only the first volume however was ever published, and although Cudworth's biographer, Thomas Birch, writing in 1743, was able fully to describe them, neither part II nor Part III now exists in manuscript. Wing C7471; ESTC r31350. Item #39131
"Ralph Cudworth (the Younger, 1617-1688), the most systematic metaphysician of the Cambridge Platonist School.... important in understanding the background of Newton and the early Newtonians. " DSB III, 492. "In 1678 Cudworth was installed as a prebendary at Gloucester and, in the same year, this major and massive work ... was published. It seems to have been ready for some time since it contains an imprimatur dated 29 May 1671. Thomas Birch (Birch, 20) states that when it appeared some courtiers attempted to discredit Cudworth and it may be that some such opposition was the reason for the delay in publishing. The present work is primarily a critique of what Cudworth took to be the two principal forms of atheism -materialism and hylozoism. The materialist Cudworth had especially in mind is Thomas Hobbes. Cudworth attempts to show that Hobbes had revived the doctrines of Protagoras and is therefore subject to the criticisms which Plato had deployed againt Protagoras in the Theaetetus.
Cudworth argued that the only real source of knowledge is the Christian religion. Religious truth was embodied in three great principles: the reality of the supreme Divine intelligence and the spiritual world which that intelligence has created, the eternal reality of moral ideas, and the reality of moral freedom and responsibility. see J.A. Passmore, R. Cudworth, Cambridge, 1951.