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Ralph Cudworth

1617-1688. English divine. Son of an Anglican rector, he became regius professor of Hebrew at Cambridge (1645), to which was later (1654) added the mastership of Christ's College. He was perhaps the most distinguished exponent of the Cambridge Platonists.* Cudworth formulated the theory of a “plastic nature” and declared, “Things are what they are, not by Will but by Nature.” He asserted the need for revealed religion, was a staunch advocate of the reality of moral freedom and responsibility, and was convinced that the “impossibility” of atheism was demonstrable. He was imperfectly understood, however, partly because of his habit of introducing much extraneous lore into his arguments, partly because of his scrupulously fair delineation of his adversaries' views (a policy to which his controversial age was not notably drawn). An excellent if somewhat diffuse scholar, he was consulted in 1657 by a parliamentary committee exploring the need for a new translation of the Bible. His own works included The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678); and a Treatise concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality (published posthumously in 1731), directed in part against Calvinism.