Is Margaret Cavendish worthy of study today?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (3):457-461 (2011)
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Before her death in 1673, Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, expressed a wish that her philosophical work would experience a ‘glorious resurrection’ in future ages. During her lifetime, and for almost three centuries afterwards, her writings were destined to ‘lye still in the soft and easie Bed of Oblivion’. But more recently, Cavendish has received a measure of the fame she so desired. She is celebrated by feminists, literary theorists, and historians. There are regular conferences organised by the International Margaret Cavendish Society, and there have been several biographies, as well as essay collections, journal issues, scholarly editions, and anthologies devoted to her work. In terms of studies in the history and philosophy of science, however, Cavendish has yet to achieve her resurrection in full. While there have been journal articles and book chapters, and a 2001 edition of her Observations, there have been (until now) no book-length studies of her philosophy, and there is currently no modern edition of her other major work, the Philosophical Letters. This essay-length review of Lisa Sarasohn’s The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish highlights why Cavendish should still hold interest for philosophers today.

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Jacqueline Broad
Monash University

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