Event: Mini-Workshop on Early Modern Philosophy

Mini-workshop: Early Modern Conceptions of Virtue

Date: Friday, 3 August, 12.30-4pm

This mini-workshop forms part of an ARC-funded Discovery Project on women and liberty in the early modern period (DP140100109).

12.30-12.45pm (N602, Menzies)

Jacqueline Broad: Introduction

12.45-1.30 (N602, Menzies)

Rosalind Volpato (Monash)

Title: “Concepts of Judgement and Self-knowledge in Descartes and Poullain”

Abstract: In the 17th Century, François Poullain de la Barre adopts and extends Cartesian principles to challenge society’s views on the status of women, developing, according to Siep Stuurman, a social philosophy of egalitarianism that is based on rationality and not on rights.  Martina Reuter agrees with Stuurman that Poullain uses some Cartesian principles to develop a social philosophy, however she argues that Poullain is anti-Cartesian because he does not recognise the role of the will in judgement but rather regards reason as the active component. This, I will argue, is not the case: Poullain does recognise the will and it is a fundamental concept in his theory of self-knowledge.

1.30-2.30pm (Taste Baguette): lunch.

2.30-3.15pm (E561, Menzies)

Maks Sipowicz (Monash)

Title: “Morality and Health in Descartes”

Abstract: In his Principles of Philosophy (1647) Descartes makes a puzzling claim, that mastering morality requires the mastery of the other two sciences in his system, medicine and mechanics. So far, the literature has developed two ways of understanding this. The first, taking the relationship between morals and the other sciences as beginning with the human body and its influence on the mind. The second, taking the influence as going the other way. In this essay I argue that both approaches fail by not taking seriously Descartes’ understanding of human beings as mind-body composites. In response, I present a synthetic account, which I argue avoids this failing.

3.30-4pm (E561, Menzies)

Karen Detlefsen (Penn)

Topic: “Emilie du Châtelet on Virtue and Vice”

Abstract: Emilie Du Châtelet is rightly best known for her work in natural philosophy. Nevertheless, her work in value theory is highly original and interesting, and in this paper, I examine some features of that work. I focus on her conceptions of virtue and vice in her translation of Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees as well as her Discourse on Happiness. Both texts suggest that whatever promotes overall happiness is virtuous, and overall happiness accounts for individual happiness. I argue that Du Châtelet's position (a) is a notable departure from Mandeville's own — a departure that Du Châtelet manages by making significant changes to Mandeville's text in her translation of it; and (b) could reasonably open the door to social activism by women to improve women's happiness, thus improving overall happiness, and as a result, bringing about greater virtue in society as a whole.

If you would like further details, please contact Jacqueline Broad (Jacqueline.Broad@monash.edu).