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By Patricia Springborg

Thinker, theologian, academic theorist, feminist, and political pamphleteer, Mary Astell used to be a massive determine within the heritage of principles of the early glossy interval in lots of contexts. (She contributed to the British debate over toleration and dissent from the 1690s, which inaugurated the fashionable secular state.) Patricia Springborg's examine recovers the historic and philosophical contexts of her notion. She demonstrates that Astell used to be no longer by myself in her perspectives yet, quite, a part of a cohort of early sleek girls philosophers grappling with the existential difficulties of a brand new age.

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Extra resources for Mary Astell: Theorist of Freedom from Domination

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It matters not, for they Rally everything tho’ ever so Sacred, and rail at the Women commonly in very good Company. . But that your grave Dons, your Learned Men, and which is more, your Men of Sense, as they wou’d be thought, should stoop so low as to make Invectives against the Women, forget themselves so much as to jest with their Slaves, who have neither the Liberty nor Ingenuity to make Reprizals! that they shou’d waste their Time, and debase their good Sense which fits them for the most weighty Affairs, such as are suitable to their profound Wisdoms and exalted Understandings!

93 By this I mean that we cannot simply assume that new paradigms are representative of the practices of a community of scientists and leave it at that. The scientific episteme by its very nature represents a structure of values that may stand in a more or less contingent relation to the practice of scientists – at least we cannot assume out of hand that one determines the other – and it seems highly likely that these values include a gendered element. Moreover, the triumph of materialism and the doctrine of progress have meant that far too little effort has been made to reconstruct the alternative pathways to modernity that were lost – even O’Neill’s throwaway remark about outdated philosophy that ‘“deserves” to be left out of the canon’ leaves me wondering if she too has P1: GDZ 0521841046int CY580-Springborg 0 521 84104 6 September 16, 2005 16:20 Astell, Drake and the Social Gendering of Knowledge 25 not been infected!

In this respect, Cartesian mind–body duality created space. As long as women had souls, however they might be disqualified as bodies, they had the same right to self-improvement and the same duty to salvation as men. 43 But Cartesians did not monopolize this position. Judith Drake, the proLockean dualist, as Eileen O’Neill characterizes her, took the same stand as Astell on women’s capacity for self-improvement while treating the Cartesian beast-machine with withering contempt. Addressing Princess Anne of Denmark, later Queen Anne, the royal dedicatee of her Essay in Defence of the Female Sex of 1696, Drake bases her argument for female equality on a highly satirical parody of the Hobbesian state of nature, which she submits to a reductio ad absurdum, characterizing it in terms, not of perpetual warfare between men, but of the sex relations between beasts:44 I shall only once more take notice that in Brutes and other Animals there is no difference betwixt Male and Female in point of Sagacity, notwithstanding there is the same distinction of Sexes, that is between Man and Woman.

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