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Lecture 5

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Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2111
Linda Hunter

Week 5: McDonald pg 37-55 MaryAstell (1668-1731) - born in Newcastle to a respectable family - from a young age she was deeply religious - she also shared the staunch conservative politics of the established church: the divine right of the sovereign to rule and no toleration for dissent - large concern for women’s education and proposed a college for women -never married, and lived alone in a time where respectable women did not - arguably the first systematic feminist theoretician in the West, also a pioneer methodologist and political polemicist - died at age 65 due to breast cancer, despite a double mastectomy without anesetic Astell’s Publications - appears mainly in her books on women, beginning with her witty and provocative “Serious Proposal for the Ladies” (Part 1 was published 1694, Part 2 was published 1697) - Serious Proposal for the Ladies was her most popular publication - “Some Reflections upon Marriage”—based on an actual case demonstrating the legal disabilities of women, published 1700. - adhering to the conventions of her sex, she published her books anonymously (however she was known as the author and her books were much talked about) Astell’s Methodology - her work is an eclectic combination of Cartesian doubt and Lockean caution and aversion to system - Astell’s fierce opposition to Locke’s liberal politics, toleration of dissent, and leanings toward Unitarianism have tended to influence commentators to treat her as an opponent of Locke’s empiricism. - Adopted Cartesian terminology, similar to Locke - had greater confidence than Locke in the possibility of certain knowledge, but all together is closer to Locke on methodology than to Descarte’s or Malebranche - in both substance and tone, Astell resembled Locke - understood as being heavily influenced by Locke’s ideas - toAstell it seemed more agreeable to say that God produces out sensations through nature, rather than saying they are directly through divine power - her treatment of women and men’s intellectual and moral equals was attacked by antifeminists of the day, but otherwise was appreciated as provocative -drew an analogy between a husbands domination over his wife and that of humans over th nature ( environmental consciousness was an extremely rare strain of thought in 17 century Europe) - Astell’s claim for equality was inextricably intermixed with an affirmation of the empiricist approach for knowledge - Astell argued the importance of education for women, however to deal with education, Astell thought she must treat the underlying issue of how anyone acquires knowledge - “For God as given women as well as men intellectual souls, why should they be forbidden to improve them?” - believed it was cruel and unjust to exclude women from knowledge - Astell insisted that : “we know not anything by intution, or immediate view, except a few principles” Otherwise knowledge was acquired by reason and deduction - she maintains that there are 4 types of created beings: minds, bodies, mind-body unions and the particles that compose bodies - distinguished three modes of thinking: faith, science and opinion- each with their own limits relative to the functioning of the human intellect - Astell uses the expression “moral certainty” which is of ancient origin, going back to the constructive skepticism of fourth century B.C. Greece. Closer toAstell’s time the moderate wing of the Church of England, the Latitudinarians, used similar terms to refer to probable knowledge for which there is evidence short of certainty. - keen to argue the common ground between faith and science. She held that, while there was a great difference between immutable science and variable and uncertain opinion, the difference between faith and science was not so great as usually supposed. The question was not one of certainty but of the way of proof - Astell believed that we should recognize that we know very little if we make our own reason the standard of all truth. It is certain that nothing is true but what is conformable to reason, and as certain that there are many truths which human reason cannot comprehend - her understanding of “reason” was
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