Early Modern Philosophy

Gender and Early Modern Women Philosophers

Did any of the early modern male philosophers consider the position of women in their writing?

Yes. René Descartes (1596–1650) deliberately wrote his Discourse on Method (1637) in French, in part so that women, who were not usually taught Latin, would be able to read it. Hobbes considered women to be just as strong and free as men in the original state of nature and talked about their consent being necessary to enter into marriage. He also referred to the power of women when he called them “Lord Mothers,” to whom their children were obligated if they had nurtured and raised them, instead of “abandoning them to fortune.”

John Locke (1632–1704) thought that the doctrine of the divine right of kings, which was based on heredity from Adam, simply left out the existence of female parents. He described marriage as a partnership for the sake of procreation and raising children and suggested that once children were grown the husband and wife could go their separate ways if they chose. In his Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), written in response to his cousin’s questions about how young men should be raised, Locke wrote that girls should receive basically the same education as boys.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Philosophy Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App