Early Modern Feminism and Cartesian Philosophy

Authored by: Jacqueline Broad

The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138795921
eBook ISBN: 9781315758152
Adobe ISBN:


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In early modern Europe (c.1500–1700) it was a common perception that men and women had different bodily qualities: men’s bodies were hot and dry, while women’s were cold and moist; men were strong and active, while women were weak and passive. According to French physician Marin Cureau de la Chambre, these different bodily temperaments gave rise to different dispositions in the minds of men and women. On account of being hot, a man was naturally inclined to be courageous, magnanimous, sincere, liberal, merciful, just, and grateful. Because he was dry, a man was also capable of having a strong resolve, and of being constant, patient, modest, faithful, and judicious. By contrast, on account of being cold, a woman was:

Weak, and consequently Fearfull, Pusillanimous, Jealous, Distrustfull, Crafty, apt to Dissemble, Flatter, Lie, easily Offended, Revengefull, Cruel in her revenge, Unjust, Covetous, Ungratefull, Superstitious. And from her being moist, it follows that she should be Unconstant, Light, Unfaithfull, Impatient, easily Perswaded, Compassionate, Talkative.

(Cureau 1670: 26, italics in original)

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