“The Consistency of Mary Astell’s Theory of Mind”

Melissa Frankel, Carleton University

Mary Astell, a 17th century English philosopher perhaps best known for her arguments for the education of women, is typically read as grounding those arguments in Cartesian dualism; this reading is bolstered by her sustained attack on John Locke’s argument for the possibility of thinking matter. But in her 1695 correspondence with John Norris, Astell suggests that there might be “a Sensible Congruity between those Powers of the Soul that are employed in Sensation, and those Objects which occasion it,”1 a view that seems more at home in the writings of Locke than of a Cartesian. In this paper I consider this and other passages to try to answer the question of whether Mary Astell is a Cartesian about the mind, and if so, what kind of Cartesian she might be.

1. From the Appendix to Letters concerning the love of God

Friday, October 13, 2017 Room: 218 Paterson Hall Time: 11:30 a.m.