/ Séminaire « Patriarcat et héritage : Propriété, répartition et transmission dans l’Europe moderne » [Triangle / CREA (EA 370)]

Jacqueline Broad : « The Antipatriarchal Philosophy of Mary Astell »

1er mars 2024, à Nanterre et à distance


Jacqueline Broad enseigne la philosophie à Monash University, Melbourne. Ses recherches portent sur l’histoire de la philosophie, notamment sur les femmes philosophes de l’époque moderne (1650-1750).

Abstract :
In 1979, Joan Kinnaird maintained that the early English feminist Mary Astell (1666-1731) “preached not women’s rights but women’s duties” (1979 : 73). Since then, several scholars have endorsed Kinnaird’s reading or something like it. Patricia Springborg claims that far from being an advocate of “the rights of freeborn Englishmen,” Astell “makes the doctrine of natural rights the frequent butt of her ridicule” (1995 : 624). Moreover, Springborg asserts that Astell denies that human beings have “property in their own person,” or something that belongs to them—such as life, liberty, and material possessions—that they are entitled to preserve or defend against threats (2001 : 867 ; 2005 : 227). In this paper, I argue that Astell had the appropriate conceptual tools to mount arguments for women’s rights, and that such arguments can be found in her works. I claim that her writings are representative of a pattern of thought in the early modern period that appeals to women’s dignity as the basis of their moral standing. By pointing to their equal dignity with men, Astell demonstrates that women have the requisite moral standing to make normative demands on others, and that others are obliged to respect those demands. I use this analysis to suggest a re-thinking of Astell’s ideas concerning “property in one’s person.” Far from denying this doctrine, I argue, she claims that women do have property in their own persons—something that belongs to them by nature and that they are entitled to protect.

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