Socializing the Individual: Relating Poulain de la Barre to Descartes
Lisa Shapiro (Simon Fraser University)

October 5, 2018, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

E561, 5th Floor, Menzies Buildng
Monash University
Clayton 3800



It is clear that François Poulain de la Barre adopts Cartesian philosophy to defend the equality of the sexes and develop mechanisms to achieve that equality. My aim in this paper is to examine just how Poulain leverages Cartesian philosophy, as well as how he develops it. I will be focused on the first of his three essays On the Equality of the Two Sexes, and argue that even while he accepts an aspect of Cartesian individualism about thinking things, he uses basic premises of Cartesian epistemology – skeptical method, and a causal principle – to resituate those individuals in a social context. I conclude by suggesting that this socialization of Cartesian individuals ultimately has implications for the Cartesian account of a thinking thing, which are developed more clearly in On the Education of Ladies.


Background reading:

François Poulain de la Barre, On the Equality of the Sexes  [In either in Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises, ed. Welch and Bosley, or The Equality of the Sexes: Three Feminist Treatises of the 17th Century, ed. Desmond Clarke.]

Reuter, Martina, “Francois Poulain de la Barre on the Subjection of Women” in Women and Liberty, 1600-1800: Philosophical Essays. Eds. Jacqueline Broad and Karen Detlefsen. OUP 2017.

Stuurman, Siep, “Social Cartesianism: François Poulain de la Barre and the Origins of the Enlightenment,” Journal of the History of Ideas 58, (1997): 617-640.

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