A Decaying Carcass? Mary Astell and the Embodied Self

Abstract

Mary Astell (1666-1731) relies on a Cartesian account of the self to argue that both men and women are essentially thinking things and, hence, that both should perfect their minds or intellects. This account of the self might seem to ignore the inescapable fact that we have bodies. I argue that Astell accommodates the self’s embodiment along three dimensions. First, she tempers her sharp distinction between mind and body by insisting on their union. Second, she argues that the mind-body union is good, at least when the body obeys the mind. Third, though Astell identifies the self with the mind, she identifies the person with the combination of mind and body.

Author's Profile

Colin Chamberlain
University College London

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2023-09-15

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