Thu Oct 19, 2017
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Christia Mercer (Columbia University)
Descartes’ Demons and Debts, or, The Importance of Studying Women in the History of Philosophy
Despite what you have heard over the years, the epistemological strategy of Descartes’ Meditations is not original to its author. The Meditations’ movement from radical doubt to self-knowledge and truth is a common feature of late medieval meditative practices, especially those written by women. Equally surprising is the fact that the most philosophically subtle arguments in the Meditations are inspired by a Spanish nun, Teresa of Ávila (1515-82), whose works have been entirely ignored by historians of philosophy. This paper puts Descartes’ Meditations in its rightful context, displays the philosophical benefits of doing so, and exposes the importance of working on women in the history of philosophy.