Marcelle Maistre Welch and Vivien Bosley

in Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226676531
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226676555 | DOI:

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This chapter comprises two large sections, preceded by a Preface and followed by a Postface, all clearly identified by François Poullain de la Barre with titles. The Preface introduces the reader to Cartesian analysis. Poullain proposes to subject a common prejudice to rational inquiry. No prejudice is better suited to such a purpose than belief in the inequality of the sexes, the most pervasive of all of human errors of judgment. Applying the “rule of truth,” that is, “to accept nothing as true unless it is supported by clear and distinct ideas,” Poullain proposes to challenge the views of the vast majority of the unlearned and then of the learned. In retrospect, his ideas might appear revolutionary because they foreshadow the spirit of reforms that will rise from the age of Enlightenment, but Poullain neither promotes nor expects any profound disruption of the social fabric to result from his inquiry.

Keywords: François Poullain; Cartesian analysis; prejudice; rational inquiry; inequality; rule of truth; Enlightenment

Chapter.  4776 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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