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Chapter Six - Cavendish, Philosophical Letters, and the Plenum

from Part II - Philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2022

Lisa Walters
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
Brandie R. Siegfried
Affiliation:
Brigham Young University, Utah
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Summary

Philosophical Letters by Margaret Cavendish is a peculiar text in which Cavendish engages with the views of some of the great philosophers and scientists of her time, but it is not a correspondence in which she communicates with those figures directly. Instead, she discusses a cross-section of their views with a third-person, a fictional “Madam.” Cavendish did succeed in having a small amount of back-and-forth correspondence with the leading intellectual men of her generation but there is no philosophical or scientific exchange between Cavendish and the four philosophers who are her prime “interlocutors” in Philosophical Letters – René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Henry More, and Jan Baptista Van Helmont. This chapter addresses an argument that a being depends for its social and political properties on the behavior of the beings that surround it, and more specifically that the status of an individual as a member of the philosophical community depends on the willingness of that community to regard the individual as authoritative.

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Margaret Cavendish
An Interdisciplinary Perspective
, pp. 98 - 111
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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