Whatever may be said about contemporary feminists’ evaluation of Descartes’ role in the history of feminism, Mary Astell herself believed that Descartes’ philosophy held tremendous promise for women. His urging all people to eschew the tyranny of custom and authority in order to uncover the knowledge that could be found in each one of our unsexed souls potentially offered women a great deal of intellectual and personal freedom and power. Certainly Astell often read Descartes in this way, and Astell (...) herself has been interpreted as a feminist – indeed, as the first English feminist. But a close look at Astell’s and Descartes’ theories of reason, and the role of authority in knowledge formation as well as in their philosophies of education, show that there are subtle yet crucial divergences in their thought – divergences which force us to temper our evaluation of Astell as a feminist. -/- My first task is to evaluate Astell’s views on custom and authority in knowledge formation and education by comparing her ideas with those of Descartes. While it is true that Astell seems to share Descartes’ wariness of custom and authority, a careful reading of her work shows that the wariness extends only as far as the tyranny of custom over individual intellectual development. It does not extend to a wariness about social and institutional customs and authority (including, perhaps most crucially, the institution of marriage as we see in her Reflection on Marriage). The reason for this is that Astell’s driving goal is to help women to come to know God’s plan for women – both in their roles as human and in their roles as women. According to Astell, while it is true that, as individuals, women must develop their rational capacities to the fullest in order to honor God and his plan for women as human, as members of social institutions, including the institution of marriage, women must subordinate themselves to men, including their husbands, in this case so as to honor God and his plan for women as women. Once we understand the theological underpinnings of her equivocal reaction to authority and custom, we can see that Astell may be considered a feminist in a very tempered way. -/- My second task is to use these initial conclusions to re-read her proposal for single-sexed education that we find in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. It is true that Astell encourages women to join single-sexed educational institutions for the unique and empowering friendships that women can develop in such institutions. Still, my argument continues, the development of such friendships is not entirely an end in itself. Rather, Astell encourages women to develop such friendships such that they can re-enter the broader world armed with the tools that will help them endure burdensome features of the lives that await them in the world, including their lives as subordinated wives –burdens that Astell does not, in principle, challenge. (shrink)
Mary Shepherd and the Causal Relation - Part One -/- Part One gives context to the life and work of Lady Mary Shepherd. It weaves together the stories of her ancestors, her own stories and the wider social, historical and philosophical context. The aim is to evoke a world from which to mark the emergence of Mary Shepherd, Scotland’s first female philosopher.
There are close parallels between Frank Jackson's case of black-and-white Mary and David Lewis's case of the two omniscient gods. This essay develops and defends what may be called “the ability hypothesis” about the knowledge that the gods lack, by adapting Lewis's ability hypothesis about the knowledge that Mary acquires. What the gods might lack despite their propositional omniscience is not any distinctive kind of information, but certain abilities of introspection. The motivating idea is that knowledge one acquires (...) by exercising introspective abilities cannot fail to be knowledge about oneself or indexical knowledge. So in order to envisage the gods' epistemic situation coherently, we need to assume that they lack those introspective abilities. But once we recognize that, it turns out that positing a special kind of information is a gratuitous addition. The two gods' ignorance simply consists in their lack of introspective abilities. (shrink)
Nearly two hundred years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote what is considered to be the first major work of feminist political theory: A Vindication of the Rights of Women . Much has been written about this work, and about Wollstonecraft as the intellectual pioneer of feminism, but the actual substance and coherence of her political thought have been virtually ignored. Virginia Sapiro here provides the first full-length treatment of Wollstonecraft's political theory. Drawing on all of Wollstonecraft's works and treating them (...) thematically rather than sequentially, Sapiro shows that Wollstonecraft's ideas about women's rights, feminism, and gender are elements of a broad and fully developed philosophy, one with significant implications for contemporary democratic and liberal theory. The issues raised speak to many current debates in theory, including those surrounding interpretation of the history of feminism, the relationship between liberalism and republicanism in the development of political philosophy, and the debate over the canon. For political scientists, most of whom know little about Wollstonecraft's thought, Sapiro's book is an excellent, nuanced introduction which will cause a reconsideration of her work and her significance both for her time and for today's concerns. For feminist scholars, Sapiro's book offers a rounded and unconventional analysis of Wollstonecraft's thought. Written with considerable charm and verve, this book will be the starting point for understanding this important writer for years to come. (shrink)
According to some scholars, Mary Astell’s feminist programme is severely limited by its focus on self-improvement rather than wider social change. In response, I highlight the role of ‘virtuous friendship’ in Astell’s 1694 work, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. Building on classical ideals and traditional Christian principles, Astell promotes the morally transformative power of virtuous friendship among women. By examining the significance of such friendship to Astell’s feminism, we can see that she did in fact aim to bring (...) about reformation of society and not just the individual. (shrink)
This short paper grew out of an observation—made in the course of a larger research project—of a surprising convergence between, on the one hand, certain themes in the work of Mary Hesse and Nelson Goodman in the 1950/60s and, on the other hand, recent work on the representational resources of science, in particular regarding model-based representation. The convergence between these more recent accounts of representation in science and the earlier proposals by Hesse and Goodman consists in the recognition that, (...) in order to secure successful representation in science, collective representational resources must be available. Such resources may take the form of (amongst others) mathematical formalisms, diagrammatic methods, notational rules, or—in the case of material models—conventions regarding the use and manipulation of the constituent parts. More often than not, an abstract characterization of such resources tells only half the story, as they are constituted equally by the pattern of (practical and theoretical) activities—such as instances of manipulation or inference—of the researchers who deploy them. In other words, representational resources need to be sustained by a social practice; this is what renders them collective representational resources in the first place. (shrink)
In the 1706 third edition of her Reflections upon Marriage, Mary Astell alludes to John Locke’s definition of slavery in her descriptions of marriage. She describes the state of married women as being ‘subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, Arbitrary Will of another Man’ (Locke, Two Treatises, II.22). Recent scholars maintain that Astell does not seriously regard marriage as a form of slavery in the Lockean sense. In this paper, I defend the contrary position: I argue that Astell does (...) seriously regard marriage as a form of slavery for women and that she condemns this state of affairs as morally wrong. I also show that, far from criticizing Locke, Astell draws on key passages in his Thoughts concerning Education to urge that women be educated to retain their liberty. (shrink)
Although Catharine Macaulay was a contract theorist and early feminist her philosophy is not based on a concept of liberty like that of Hobbes, but on a notion of individual liberty as self government close to that accepted by Mary Astell. This raises the question of whether criticisms of liberal feminism which assume that it is rooted in Hobbes's suspect notion of freedom and consent may miss there mark.
Lady Mary Shepherd’s critique of Hume’s account of causation, his worries about knowledge of matters of fact, and the contention that it is possible for the course of nature to spontaneously change relies primarily on three premises, two of which – that objects are merely bundles of qualities and that the qualities of an object are individuated by the causal powers contributed by those qualities – anticipate contemporary metaphysical views in ways that she should be getting credit for. The (...) remaining premise – that it is impossible for an object to begin to exist uncaused – seems more old fashioned. I argue that Shepherd can do without her old-fashioned premise and that she provides the materials for arguing that her remaining premises demonstrate a stronger anti-Humeanism than is maintained even by the contemporary representatives of those views, even though she may have to concede more to Humeanism than she would like. (shrink)
: If liberal theory is to move forward, it must take the political nature of family relations seriously. The beginnings of such a liberalism appear in Mary Wollstonecraft's work. Wollstonecraft's depiction of the family as a fundamentally political institution extends liberal values into the private sphere by promoting the ideal of marriage as friendship. However, while her model of marriage diminishes arbitrary power in family relations, she seems unable to incorporate enduring sexual relations between married partners.
In her book, Moral Status, Mary Anne Warren defends a comprehensive theory of the moral status of various entities. Under this theory, she argues that animals may have some moral rights but that their rights are much weaker in strength than the rights of humans, who have rights in the fullest, strongest sense. Subsequently, Warren believes that our duties to animals are far weaker than our duties to other humans. This weakness is especially evident from the fact that Warren (...) believes that it is frequently permissible for humans to kill animals for food. Warren’s argument for her view consists primarily in the belief that we have inevitable practical conflicts with animals that make it impossible to grant them equal rights without sacrificing basic human interests. However, her arguments fail to justify her conclusions. In particular, Warren fails to justify her beliefs that animals do not have an equal right to life and that it is permissible for humans to kill animals for food. (shrink)
Combining the liberalism of Locke and the "civic humanism" of Republicanism, Mary Wollstonecraft explored the need of women for coed and equal education with men, economic independence whether married or not, and representation as citizens in the halls of government. In doing so, she foreshadowed and surpassed her much better known successor, John Stuart Mill. Ten feminist scholars prominent in the fields of political philosophy, constitutional and international law, rhetoric, literature, and psychology argue here that Wollstonecraft, by reason of (...) the scope and complexity of her thought, belongs in the "canon" of political philosophers along with Rousseau and Burke, her contemporaries, both of whom she strenuously engaged in political debate. These essays explore the many aspects of her thought that resound so tellingly to the modern woman, including her groundbreaking attempt to be completely self-sufficient. The final bibliographical essay outlines the changing interpretations of Wollstonecraft's work over the past two hundred years and evaluates her standing among political theorists today. Contributors are Maria J. Falco, Penny A. Weiss, Virginia Sapiro, Virginia L. Muller, Wendy Gunther-Canada, Carol H. Poston, Miriam Brody, Moira Ferguson, Louise Byer Miller, and Dorothy McBride Stetson. (shrink)
During a smallpox epidemic in April 1721, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu asked Dr. Charles Maitland to "engraft" her daughter, thus instigating the first documented inoculation for smallpox (_Variola_ virus) in England. Engrafting, or variolation, was a means of conferring immunity to smallpox by placing pus taken from a smallpox pustule under the skin of an uninfected person to create a local infection. The introduction of infectious viral matter, however, could trigger fullblown smallpox, and the practice was controversial for both (...) this reason and the pervasive conviction that it was immoral to intentionally infect a human body. Eventually, engrafting was phased out altogether in favor of vaccination, a much safer procedure established by Edward Jenner in the late eighteenth century. Montagu's decision was influenced by her experiences in Constantinople, where she had spent a year, and where engrafting was commonplace. As a smallpox survivor herself, Montagu had taken an interest in Turkish inoculation practices, and had had her son Edward engrafted while in Turkey. She was not the first person to import the idea of smallpox inoculation to England, nor the first English person to have their child inoculated (other English children had been inoculated while visiting Turkey), yet she quickly became known for importing and popularizing smallpox inoculation. At the request of her acquaintances, she took her inoculated daughter with her on a round of visits into elite households to demonstrate the safety of the procedure. The reputation she gained was both positive and negative: monuments were erected in her honor, encomiastic poems were published, and Voltaire declared her "a woman of as fine a genius, and endued with as great a strength of mind as any of her sex in the British Kingdoms"; however, anti-inoculationists ridiculed her, some society figures regarded her warily, and Alexander Pope satirized her in his poetry.
Montagus pioneering role in the smallpox debate is undoubtedly significant: she instigated the first smallpox inoculation on English soil, and she was largely responsible for making the practice acceptable in elite circles. My interest in this essay is in the nature and significance of Montagus reputation as an inoculation pioneer. I will argue that her reputation was based on the particular combination of her social position as a Whig and an aristocratic woman; her interest in progressive and enlightened forms of social, political, and scientific thought; her standing in influential literary circles; and, not least, the force of her own personality. In broad terms, I offer Montagus involvement in the smallpox debate as a case study in a new kind of public role becoming available to elite women in the early eighteenth century a role that caused considerable discomfort among her peers and in the medical community, and one that stimulated a widespread controversy in print publications of the day. (shrink)
In 1997, five decades after the publication of the landmark Hempel-Oppenheim article "Studies in the Logic of Explanation"(, 1970) Wesley Salmon published Causality and Explanation, a book that re-addresses the issue of scientific explanation. He provided an overview of the basic approaches to scientific explanation, stressed their weaknesses, and offered novel insights. However, he failed to mention Mary Hesse's approach to the topic and analyze her standpoint. This essay brings front and center Hesse's approach to scientific explanation formulated in (...) the 1960s and argues that rereading Hesse's account one can overcome the criticisms addressed towards another influential theory of explanation that of Bas van Fraassen's. Furthermore, it could bring the traditional philosophy of science into a fruitful conversation with science and technology studies and gender studies in science, technology and medicine. (shrink)
Many of the philosophers of African politics who have argued that the political challenges of Nigeria, and of Africa as a whole are as a result of the impunity and corruption of post-independence Nigeria leaders also give the impression that the people of Nigeria are mere innocent victims because in their arguments all the ills of the Nigerian state exist only because the country have not experienced or discovered an honest and capable political leader. The scholars argue to the effect (...) that all that Nigeria can do is simply to hope for the ascendance of a Messiah, who being an honest, capable and patriotic leader will on his own volition become committed to the cause of reversing the situation in order to turn around all the ills of the nation. Employing the examples of two prominent scholars of African politics the paper employs the epistemological rigor of analysis and logic to examine and make a critique of the underlying assumptions of the scholars and identifies the theoretical flaws of believing that political representatives are substantively political leaders, that Nigerians are helpless victims who on their own are incapable of reversing the situation and that Nigeria should hope for a political saviour who will turn around all the social and political ills of Nigeria on his own accord. Keywords : Ignocence, Messianism, Epistemology, Democracy, Nigeria. (shrink)
This article discusses the work of Dr Mary Louisa Gordon, who was appointed as the first English Lady Inspector of Prisons in 1908, and remained in post until 1921. Her attitude towards and treatment of women prisoners, as explained in her 1922 book Penal Discipline, stands in sharp contrast to that of her male contemporaries, and the categorisation of her approach as ‘feminist’ is reinforced by her documented connections with the suffragette movement. Yet her feminist and suffragist associations also (...) resulted in the marginalisation and dismissal of her work, such that Mary Gordon and Penal Discipline are virtually unknown today. Nevertheless, her insights into the position and needs of women prisoners retain a striking contemporary relevance. (shrink)
The concept of ÒrÒ among the Yoruba people in Nigeria has a lot in common with the biblical concept of Λoγos. This paper explores Λoγos as derived from Greek Logos translated as Word into English, and its parallelisms with ÒrÒ a fêted concept among the Yoruba. The paper provides evidence that both conceptsare related to exoteric functions within their distinct cultural communities. Finally, the paper opens these issues to the possibilities of cross-cultural research and semiotics.
In 1997, five decades after the publication of the landmark Hempel-Oppenheim article "Studies in the Logic of Explanation" Wesley Salmon published Causality and Explanation, a book that re-addresses the issue of scientific explanation. He provided an overview of the basic approaches to scientific explanation, stressed their weaknesses, and offered novel insights. However, he failed to mention Mary Hesse's approach to the topic and analyze her standpoint. This essay brings front and center Hesse's approach to scientific explanation formulated in the (...) 1960s and argues that rereading Hesse's account one can overcome the criticisms addressed towards another influential theory of explanation that of Bas van Fraassen's. Furthermore, it could bring the traditional philosophy of science into a fruitful conversation with science and technology studies and gender studies in science, technology and medicine. (shrink)
This is the first scholarly study of Atlas Shrugged, covering in detail the historical, literary, and philosophical aspects of Ayn Rand's magnum opus. Topics explored in depth include the history behind the novel's creation, publication, and reception; its nature as a romantic novel; and its presentation of a radical new philosophy.
Mary Astell is best known today as one of the earliest English feminists. This book sheds new light on her writings by interpreting her first and foremost as a moral philosopher—as someone committed to providing guidance on how best to live. The central claim of this work is that all the different strands of Astell’s thought—her epistemology, her metaphysics, her philosophy of the passions, her feminist vision, and her conservative political views—are best understood in light of her ethical objectives. (...) To support that claim, this work examines Astell’s programme to bring about a moral transformation of character in her fellow women. This ethical programme draws on several key aspects of seventeenth-century philosophy, including Cartesian and Neoplatonist epistemologies, ontological and cosmological proofs for the existence of God, rationalist arguments for the soul’s immateriality, and theories about how to regulate the passions in accordance with reason. At the heart of Astell’s philosophical system lies a theory of virtue, including guidelines about how to cultivate generosity of character, a benevolent disposition towards others, and the virtue of moderation. This book explains the foundations of that moral theory, and then examines how it shapes and informs Astell’s response to male tyranny within marriage and to political tyranny in the state. It concludes with some reflections on the historiographical implications of writing Mary Astell back into the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Although ‘virtue’ is a complex idea in Wollstonecraft’s work, one of its senses refers to the capacity and willingness to govern one’s own conduct rationally, and to employ this ability in deliberating about matters of public concern. Wollstonecraft understands virtue to be integral to the meaning of freedom rather than as merely instrumentally useful for its preservation. It follows, therefore, that a free republic must be a virtuous one. The first virtue of social institutions, we might say, is ‘virtue’ itself. (...) In a virtuous republic all citizens, from no matter which social group, are able to represent themselves in law and in public debate. This is a demanding condition, requiring not just suitably robust republican institutions but an open and accommodating public culture in which sufficient numbers of citizens are positively engaged in ensuring that the available stock of background ideas and values is representative, diverse and inclusive. (shrink)