Gabrielle Suchon, Freedom, and the Neutral Life

International Journal of Philosophical Studies (5):1-28 (2019)
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A central project of Enlightenment thought is to ground claims to natural freedom and equality. This project is the foundation of Suchon’s view of freedom. But it is not the whole story. For, Suchon’s focus is not just natural freedom, but also the necessary and sufficient conditions for oppressed members of society, women, to avail themselves of this freedom. In this paper I, first, treat Suchon’s normative argument for women’s right to develop their rational minds. In Section 2, I consider Suchon’s three necessary and sufficient conditions for freedom, and the manners in which women are blocked from meeting them. The normative argument together with the obstacles to women meeting the conditions for freedom raises the question of how to get women into a position where they can enjoy the freedom to which they are entitled. In Section 3, I outline Suchon’s answer: women must live a life without attachment. I argue this answer situates Suchon both chronologically and theoretically between the Béguines, a medieval women’s spiritual movement, and 20th century feminist separatism. I conclude that Suchon’s view of freedom is radical, both for its time and ours, and deserves greater attention from historians of philosophy and of feminist thought.



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Julie Walsh
Wellesley College

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