CFP: Women, Dignity, and Reason in the Early Modern Period (1600–1800)

Submission deadline: June 3, 2024

Conference date(s):
December 2, 2024 - December 3, 2024

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Conference Venue:

Monash University
Melbourne, Australia

Topic areas


“Women, Dignity, and Reason in the Early Modern Period (16001800)”

Date: 2–3 December 2024

Location: Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of philosophers called for the recognition of women’s “dignity and excellence” as members of the human race. Their notions of human dignity and excellence derived from various sources. Some writers put forward a Stoic notion of dignity founded on a conception of human beings as fundamentally rational and capable of governing their emotions and attaining self-control. Others appealed to a Christian worldview in which all human beings resemble God in terms of their capacity for free will and moral choice. And those in the Confucian tradition highlighted the fact that every human being has the moral potential to become a sage. These ideas formed the basis of arguments that women possessed moral and political rights, or that women should be educated, and that women should have greater autonomy within marriage.

We invite abstracts for papers related to these ethical, social, and political themes in early modern philosophy. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

-        The rights of women

-        Female sagehood

-        Moral and political equality

-        The moral value of dignity

-        Reason, virtue, and the emotions

-        The moral distinction between humans and animals

Submissions by early career researchers and advanced PhD students are especially encouraged. Funding for travel and accommodation will be provided for accepted submissions. We expect to invite between 4–7 participants.

The seminar will be held across two days:

(1)   A reading day, in which participants will discuss key primary-source materials, including: (i) a chapter from the Stoic treatise On the Path to a Happy Life (in English translation) by Danish philosopher Birgitte Thott (1610-62); (ii) selections from A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694-97) by English thinker Mary Astell (1666-1731); and (iii) selected “Expositions” (in English translation) by the Korean neo-Confucian Im Yunjidang (1721-93). Participants are expected to have read the material and come prepared for discussion (selected readings will be provided in advance).

(2)   A presentation day, with sessions devoted to participants’ work-in-progress papers on topics related to the seminar themes. Participants should be prepared to share their draft papers ahead of the seminar, to allow ample time for discussion.

Submission instructions: please email an abstract (300-500 words) and a short CV to [email protected] by 3 June 2024.

This seminar is a part of the Extending New Narratives Partnership project, supported by the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada and partner institutions. In mid-2025, the seminar will be followed by a larger ENN workshop on ethical, social, and political philosophy at partner institution McGill University.

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