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Women's Reception of Kant, 1790–1810.

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Women's Reception of Kant, 1790–1810.

This paper looks critically at the early reception of Kant’s philosophy in the works of three women, Elise Reimarus (1735–1805), Isabelle de Charrière (1740–1806), and Germaine de Staël (1766­–1817). Beginning with Reimarus, it argues that although aware of Kant’s philosophy, the political ideas that she developed were closer to the Lockean inspired, natural law theories found in the English women, Catharine Cockburn (1679–1749) and Catharine Macaulay (1731–1791), than to Kant’s mature philosophy. Turning to Charrière, the paper suggests that her reading of Kant, while not grounded in a thorough knowledge of his works, nevertheless points to the fact that he does not really escape the problematic aspects of this earlier ethical and political outlook, grounded in natural law. Finally, the readings of Reimarus and Charière’s responses to Kant are used to critically evaluate Staël’s high estimation of his importance, and to suggest that, had she been more aware of and appreciative of earlier female interpreters of Locke’s philosophy, she would have had a greater understanding of Locke’s metaphysics of morals, and a less naïve optimism with regard to the capacity of Kant’s philosophy to escape the metaphysical difficulties that had faced natural law theories of the Lockean kind.

Honorary Professorial Fellow Karen Green is based in Historical and Philosophical Studies at Melbourne University.

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Organiser Deakin University Faculty of Arts and Education

Organiser of Deakin Philosophy Seminar Series

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