The Seventeenth-Century philosopher, scientist, poet, playwright,
and novelist Margaret Cavendish went to battle with the great
thinkers of her time, and arguably got the better of them in many
cases. She took a creative and systematic stand on the major
questions of philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and
political philosophy. She argued that human beings and all other
members of the created universe are purely material creatures, and
she held that there are many other ways in which creatures are
alike as well: for example, human beings, non-human animals,
spiders, cells, and all other beings exhibit skill, wisdom, and
activity, and so the universe of matter is not the largely dead and
unimpressive region that most of her contemporaries thought it to
be. Creatures instead are sophisticated and display a wide spectrum
of intelligent activity, ranging from the highly conscious
mentality that Descartes posited to be part and parcel of human
thought, to embodied forms of cognition that is more common in
non-human creatures but that guide a significant portion of human
behavior as well. Cavendish then used her fictional work to further
illustrate her views and arguments, and also to craft alternative
fictional worlds in which the climate for women was very different
than on Seventeenth-Century earth - a climate in which women could
be taken seriously in the role of philosopher, writer, scientist,
military general, and other roles. This is the first volume to
provide a cross-section of Cavendish's writings, views and
arguments, along with introductory material. It excerpts the key
portions of all her texts including annotated notes highlighting
the interconnections between them. Including a general introduction
by Cunning, the book will allow students to work toward a
systematic picture of Cavendish's metaphysics, epistemology, and
political philosophy (and including some of her non-philosophical
work as well) and to see her in dialogue with philosophers who are
part of the traditional canon.
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