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Karen Detlefsen
University of Pennsylvania
  1. Atomism, Monism, and Causation in the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish.Karen Detlefsen - 2006 - Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 3:199-240.
    Between 1653 and 1655 Margaret Cavendish makes a radical transition in her theory of matter, rejecting her earlier atomism in favour of an infinitely-extended and infinitely-divisible material plenum, with matter being ubiquitously self-moving, sensing, and rational. It is unclear, however, if Cavendish can actually dispense of atomism. One of her arguments against atomism, for example, depends upon the created world being harmonious and orderly, a premise Cavendish herself repeatedly undermines by noting nature’s many disorders. I argue that her supposed difficulties (...)
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  2. Margaret Cavendish and Thomas Hobbes on Freedom, Education, and Women.Karen Detlefsen - 2012 - In Nancy J. Hirschmann & Joanne H. Wright (eds.), Feminist Interpretations of Thomas Hobbes. The Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 149-168.
    In this paper, I argue that Margaret Cavendish’s account of freedom, and the role of education in freedom, is better able to account for the specifics of women’s lives than are Thomas Hobbes’ accounts of these topics. The differences between the two is grounded in their differing conceptions of the metaphysics of human nature, though the full richness of Cavendish’s approach to women, their minds and their freedom can be appreciated only if we take account of her plays, accepting them (...)
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  3. Reason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the Order and Disorder of Nature.Karen Detlefsen - 2007 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (2):157-191.
    According to Margaret Cavendish the entire natural world is essentially rational such that everything thinks in some way or another. In this paper, I examine why Cavendish would believe that the natural world is ubiquitously rational, arguing against the usual account, which holds that she does so in order to account for the orderly production of very complex phenomena (e.g. living beings) given the limits of the mechanical philosophy. Rather, I argue, she attributes ubiquitous rationality to the natural world in (...)
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  4. Custom Freedom and Equality: Mary Astell on Marriage and Women's Education.Karen Detlefsen - 2016 - In Penny Weiss & Alice Sowaal (eds.), Feminist Interpretations of Mary Astell. Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 74-92.
    Whatever may be said about contemporary feminists’ evaluation of Descartes’ role in the history of feminism, Mary Astell herself believed that Descartes’ philosophy held tremendous promise for women. His urging all people to eschew the tyranny of custom and authority in order to uncover the knowledge that could be found in each one of our unsexed souls potentially offered women a great deal of intellectual and personal freedom and power. Certainly Astell often read Descartes in this way, and Astell herself (...)
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  5. Explanation and Demonstration in the Haller-Wolff Debate.Karen Detlefsen - 2006 - In Justin E. H. Smith (ed.), The Problem of Animal Generation in Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
    The theories of pre-existence and epigenesis are typically taken to be opposing theories of generation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. One can be a pre-existence theorist only if one does not espouse epigenesis and vice versa. It has also been recognized, however, that the line between pre-existence and epigenesis in the nineteenth century, at least, is considerably less sharp and clear than it was in earlier centuries. The debate (1759-1777) between Albrecht von Haller and Caspar Friedrich Wolff on their (...)
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  6. Teleology and Natures in Descartes' Sixth Meditation.Karen Detlefsen - 2013 - In Descartes' Meditations: A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press. pp. 153-176.
    In this paper, I consider Descartes’ Sixth Meditation dropsy passage on the difference between the human body considered in itself and the human composite of mind and body. I do so as a way of illuminating some features of Descartes’ broader thinking about teleology, including the role of teleological explanations in physiology. I use the writings on teleology of some ancient authors for the conceptual (but not historical) help they can provide in helping us to think about the Sixth Meditation (...)
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  7. Biology and Theology in Malebranche's Theory of Organic Generation.Karen Detlefsen - 2014 - In Ohad Nachtomy & Justin E. H. Smith (eds.), The Life Sciences in Early Modern Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 137-156.
    This paper has two parts: In the first part, I give a general survey of the various reasons 17th and 18th century life scientists and metaphysicians endorsed the theory of pre-existence according to which God created all living beings at the creation of the universe, and no living beings are ever naturally generated anew. These reasons generally fall into three categories. The first category is theological. For example, many had the desire to account for how all humans are stained by (...)
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  8. Descartes on the Theory of Life and Methodology in the Life Sciences.Karen Detlefsen - 2016 - In Peter Distelzweig & Evan Ragland (eds.), Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy. Springer. pp. 141-72.
    As a practicing life scientist, Descartes must have a theory of what it means to be a living being. In this paper, I provide an account of what his theoretical conception of living bodies must be. I then show that this conception might well run afoul of his rejection of final causal explanations in natural philosophy. Nonetheless, I show how Descartes might have made use of such explanations as merely hypothetical, even though he explicitly blocks this move. I conclude by (...)
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  9. Cartesianism and its Feminist Promise and Limits: The Case of Mary Astell.Karen Detlefsen - forthcoming - In Catherine Wilson & Stephen Gaukroger (eds.), Descartes and Cartesianism: Essays in Honour of Desmond Clarke. Oxford University Press.
    In this paper, I consider Mary Astell's contributions to the history of feminism, noting her grounding in and departure from Cartesianism and its relation to women.
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  10. Margaret Cavendish on the Relation Between God and World.Karen Detlefsen - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (3):421-438.
    It has often been noted that Margaret Cavendish discusses God in her writings on natural philosophy far more than one might think she ought to given her explicit claim that a study of God belongs to theology which is to be kept strictly separate from studies in natural philosophy. In this article, I examine one way in which God enters substantially into her natural philosophy, namely the role he plays in her particular version of teleology. I conclude that, while Cavendish (...)
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  11. Du Châtelet and Descartes on the Role of Hypothesis and Metaphysics in Science.Karen Detlefsen - forthcoming - In Eileen O'Neill & Marcy Lascano (eds.), Feminism and the History of Philosophy. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    In this chapter, I examine similarities and divergences between Du Châtelet and Descartes on their endorsement of the use of hypotheses in science, using the work of Condillac to locate them in his scheme of systematizers. I conclude that, while Du Châtelet is still clearly a natural philosopher, as opposed to modern scientist, her conception of hypotheses is considerably more modern than is Descartes’, a difference that finds its roots in their divergence on the nature of first principles.
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  12. Women, Liberty, and Forms of Feminism.Karen Detlefsen - forthcoming - In Jacqueline Broad & Karen Detlefsen (eds.), Women and Liberty, 1600-1800: Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter shows how Mary Astell and Margaret Cavendish can reasonably be understood as early feminists in three senses of the term. First, they are committed to the natural equality of men and women, and related, they are committed to equal opportunity of education for men and women. Second, they are committed to social structures that help women develop authentic selves and thus autonomy understood in one sense of the word. Third, they acknowledge the power of production relationships, especially friendships (...)
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  13. Eric Watkins, Ed. The Divine Order, the Human Order, and the Order of Nature: Historical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. 272. $74.00. [REVIEW]Karen Detlefsen - 2015 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1):187-190.
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  14. Emilie du Châtelet Between Leibniz and Newton.Karen Detlefsen - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (1):207-209.
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Volume 21, Issue 1, Page 207-209, January 2013.
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  15. Helmut Müller-Sievers, Self-Generation: Biology, Philosophy, and Literature Around 1800 Reviewed By.Karen Detlefsen - 1998 - Philosophy in Review 18 (4):285-287.
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  16.  55
    Book Review of Desmond M. Clarke, The Equality of the Sexes: Three Feminist Texts of the Seventeenth Century. [REVIEW]Karen Detlefsen - 2015 - Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.
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  17.  51
    Review of Historical Dictionary of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy . 2nd Ed. [REVIEW]Karen Detlefsen - 2016 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 6 (2):345-48.
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  18.  97
    JA Cover and John O'Leary-Hawthorne, Substance and Individuation in Leibniz Reviewed By.Karen Detlefsen - 2002 - Philosophy in Review 22 (1):19-21.
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  19.  95
    Susan Bordo, Ed., Feminist Interpretations of René Descartes Reviewed By.Karen Detlefsen - 2000 - Philosophy in Review 20 (2):87-89.
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  20. Descartes's Method of Doubt Janet Broughton Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002, Xv + 217 Pp., $16.95 Paper. [REVIEW]Karen Detlefsen - 2006 - Dialogue 45 (2):404.
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  21.  27
    Review of Catherine Wilson and Desmond M. Clarke (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe. [REVIEW]Karen Detlefsen - 2011 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  22. Women and Liberty, 1600-1800: Philosophical Essays.Jacqueline Broad & Karen Detlefsen - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
    This book addresses the theme of liberty as it is found in the writing of women philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, or as it is theorized with respect to women and their lives. It covers both theoretical and practical philosophy, with chapters grappling with problems in the metaphysics of free will (both human and God’s), the liberty (or lack thereof) of women in their moral, personal lives as well as their social-political, public lives, and the interactions between the (...)
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