The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631-1679)

Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism

By Carol Wayne White

Subjects: Religion, British Studies, History Of Religion, History, Theology
Paperback : 9780791474662, 170 pages, July 2009
Hardcover : 9780791474655, 170 pages, May 2008

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Table of contents


Part I
1. Anne Conway and Her Contemporaries

2. Esoteric Knowledge, Practical Mysticism, and Embodied Love

3. Conway, Descartes, and the New Mechanical Science

Part II
4. Conway's Religious Vitalism, Visionary Countertraditions, and the "More" of Life

5. Processing Conway's Religious Naturalism

6. Cultural Reverberations: Love, Religious Naturalism, and Feminism


Explores the work of Anne Conway, whose philosophy of the natural world incorporated a spiritual vision.


Carol Wayne White introduces readers to the religious naturalism of the seventeenth-century English philosopher Anne Conway, whose work offers an analysis of the mechanical conception of nature. White shows how Conway's mystical cosmology provides an alternative to the dominant mechanistic models advanced by her leading male contemporaries, especially Descartes. She connects these philosophic impulses to Conway's late religious conversion to Quakerism, arguing that Quaker practical mysticism and its emphasis on equality within the natural order resonate with Conway's philosophic naturalism. White also explores Conway's continuity with and departure from current veins of religious naturalism, which entail an aesthetic ethical mandate seeking the increase of goodness in the world.

Carol Wayne White is Associate Professor of Religion at Bucknell University and author of Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Religion: Triangulating Positions.


"…[a] useful survey … this brief book might well be a valuable addition as a text to an undergraduate survey course concerned with the subject of European intellectual responses at the intersection of religion, philosophy, and natural history over the last five centuries." — Reviews in Religion & Theology

"Recovering Conway's critique of the philosophy of her day is important, as is revealing Conway's role in the history of Quakerism. The author pulls these elements together nicely in an admirably readable text. She also does a fine job of showing how significant the physical world was in the religious life of Anne Conway, and this is especially relevant for contemporary religious thinkers because religious naturalism is clearly on the ascent among contemporary intellectuals." — Loyal Rue, author of Everybody's Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution

"Conway studies are burgeoning, and this book will be useful for undergraduate teaching." — Jane Duran, author of Eight Women Philosophers: Theory, Politics, and Feminism