A Moral Philosophy of Their Own? The Moral and Political Thought of Eighteenth-Century British Women

The Monist 98 (1):89-101 (2015)


Despite the fact that the High-Church Tory, Mary Astell, held political views diametrically opposed to the Whiggish Catharine Trotter Cockburn and Catharine Macaulay, it is here argued that their metaethical views were surprisingly similar. All were influenced by a blend of Christian universalism and Aristotelian eudaimonism, which accepted the existence of a law of nature, that we strive for happiness, and that happiness results from living in accord with our God-given nature. They differed with regard to epistemological issues; the means by which we can know the law of nature, and with regard to the characterization of that nature; our telos. Traces of the ethical theories developed by these women can also be seen in the works of the philosophically informed novelists, Sarah Fielding, Jane Collier, Sarah Scott, and Hannah More.

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