Assuming Epistemic Authority, or Becoming a Thinking Thing

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Lisa Shapiro, "Assuming Epistemic Authority, or Becoming a Thinking Thing, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. cxviii, part 3

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Early modern philosophy
Women philosophers
Poulain de la Barre
Madame de Maintenon
Gabrielle Suchon

François Poulain de la Barre, Françoise D’Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon and Gabrielle Suchon deploy the Cartesian idea that human beings are essentially thinking things to offer arguments for women’s education in the latter half of seventeenth century, confronting the substantive epistemic injustice of the devaluation of women’s rational capacity. In considering how to realize the natural equality of men and women, and face and address the practical challenge of enabling those who, through prejudice, have been deprived of authority to assume that epistemic authority of their own, they ask: how does one become a thinking thing? Their answers develop the individualist Cartesian conception of thought into one that is essentially dialogic, cultivated through one’s upbringing, and dependent on a political order.


Proceedings of the Meeting of the Aristotelian Society held at Senate House, University of London, on 21 May 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

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