Jonathan Head’s article Anne Conway on Heaven and Hell

Weekly we want to highlight the writers to the Brill Journal on the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists, which is founded by Ruth Hagengruber & Mary Ellen Waithe. This week we want to present Jonathan Head who wrote the article Anne Conway on Heaven and Hell.

Journal History of Women Philosophers and Scientists

Abstract: This paper examines Anne Conway’s accounts of heaven and hell, as found in her only published work, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (1690). We see that Conway seeks to portray hell in a manner that she sees as more consonant with the postulation of a loving and just God, partly by denying eternal torment and emphasising the benefits that suffering brings to a creature. I also review Conway’s account of heaven, a realm of ‘perfect tranquillity’ in which creatures enjoy unity and harmony with Christ and other heavenly spirits. We see that Conway’s account of universal salvation in this heavenly state involves an increase of understanding of the world, a continuing process of perfection, and harmony with other heavenly spirits. Throughout the paper, I also consider Conway’s eschatology within the wider intellectual context of the revival of Origenist theology in her intellectual circle and the shifting framework of eschatological thought in the early Quaker community. By reading the Principles as responding to this context, we can deepen our understanding of the radical and original contribution Conway makes to the tradition of eschatological thought.

Jonathan Head is a member of the New Voices and was part of the 1st New Voices Conference. He presented Conway’s World Soul and Monism ( His research in early modern philosophy to date has focused on Anne Conway and the Cambridge Platonists, culminating in the publication of my first monograph, The Philosophy of Anne Conway (Bloomsbury: 2020). He is currently engaged in two projects: 1) investigating the interconnections of metaphysics, ethics and religion in the work of Catherine Trotter Cockburn, and 2) undertaking preliminary work on a new textbook for a more inclusive approach to teaching early modern philosophy.

Find the other articles from the first issue here.

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