Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Reinventing Woman’s Nature: Early Modern Feminism and Its Roots

Mar 30, 2023 - Apr 1, 2023
Royce Hall – Room 306,
Day 1: Thursday, Mar 30 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm, Royce 306
Day 2: Friday, Mar 31 @ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Royce 306
Day 3: Saturday, Apr 1 @ 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, Royce 306


Register to attend in person in Royce 306.
Register to attend online with Zoom.


Challenges to inferiorizing conceptions of women’s nature that grew in prominence in the 16th and 17th centuries should be seen not just as applications of changing philosophical conceptions of nature under the rise of mechanical philosophy, but as helping to shape those reconceptualizations. Through their polemical writings in defence of women, their rejection of histories written by men that excluded or skewed the contributions of women, in their own philosophical treatises and correspondence with male philosophers, feminists, including some feminist men, helped to shape a conception of human nature and virtue that exalted both women and men equally. These texts contain not just critiques of misogynistic theorising about the natures and vices of women aimed at raising the consciousness of women and challenging the authority of men, but deliberate proposals for rethinking social structures—the structure of communities, the family, and women’s political status and role in the State. Of note is the way in which feminists of the period recognised, therefore, that theorising about human nature could not succeed in isolation from a reimagining of the kind of social structures in which it was possible for all humans, men and women included, to flourish. An examination of what makes a thing human could not, in other words, be separated from the question of what it would take to make men and women equal.

This conference is interested in exploring these connections between theorising about women’s nature and theorising about the kind of society that promotes sexual equality. It covers the contributions of feminists from English, French, and Italian traditions, as well as the philosophical transitions that inspired them—Humanism, Cartesianism, and shifts in virtue theory, including challenges to masculinist assumptions about heroic virtues and dignity. The conference will in this way shed light on the extent to which feminist theorising in the period contained an agenda for social change, and thus to its place in the history of feminism as a social movement.


Thursday, March 30, 2023
3:30 PM – 5:00 PMMartina Reuter (University of Jyväskylä)
“Complex Relations: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Olympe de Gouges on the Sexes” (Keynote)
5:00 PM – 6:30 PMReception
Friday, March 31, 2023
9:00 AM – 10:15 AMAllauren Forbes (McMaster University)
“Speech, Silence, and Gendered Space: Women’s Epistemic Nature in Cavendish’s Plays”
10:15 AM – 10:45 AMBreak
10:45 AM – 12:00 PMMarcy Lascano (University of Kansas)
“The Feminist Ontologies of Cavendish and Conway
12:00 PM – 1:15 PMEmanuele Costa (Vanderbilt University)
“Anne Conway and the Feminine: Between Receptacle and Embodied Thought”
1:15 PM – 2:00 PMLunch Break
2:00 PM – 3:15 PMJacqueline Broad (Monash University)
“A Weapon in their Hands: Bathsua Makin’s Arguments for Women’s Education”
3:15 PM – 3:45 PMBreak
3:45 PM – 5:00 PMMarguerite Deslauriers (McGill University)
“Whose Worth? All Women, or Some Women?”
Saturday, April 1, 2023
9:00 AM – 10:15 AMDiane Zetlin (University of Queensland)
“Equality and Inequality: Glory and Honour”
10:15 AM – 10:45 AMBreak
10:45 AM – 12:00 PMCharlotte Sabourin (Douglas College)
“Germaine de Staël’s Second Thoughts on Rousseau”
12:00 PM – 1:15 PMLisa Shapiro (McGill University)
“Gabrielle Suchon on ‘persons of the sex'”
1:15 PM – 2:00 PMLunch Break
2:00 PM – 3:15 PMDeborah Brown (University of Queensland)
“Anxiety and the Fracturing of the Self: Descartes and Princess Elisabeth”



UCLA Department of Philosophy

UCLA Centre for Early Global Studies

Brian P. Copenhaver Chair in Philosophy

Australian Research Council


Register to attend in person in Royce 306.
Register to attend online with Zoom.

Registration is desirable for catering purposes.


Mar 30, 2023
Apr 1, 2023
Event Tags:


UCLA Department of Philosophy


Royce Hall – Room 306