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(p.125) Introduction
Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises
Marcelle Maistre WelchVivien Bosley
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses François Poullain de la Barre's two premises. The first is the rule of free thinking. It makes men judge things on the basis of reason rather than opinion, which he calls prejudice after René Descartes' principles. Second, Poullain's modernist standpoint in the Battle of the Ancients and the Moderns rejects outright the principle of authority, which relies on models of the past for guidance and direction rather than believing in the progress of civilization in a modern society. On the Education of Ladies: For Training the Mind in the Sciences and in Moral Judgment (1674) is a sequel to On the Equality of the Two Sexes: A Physical and Moral Discourse which Shows the Importance of Getting Rid of One's Prejudices (1673). Two fundamental principles have emerged from Poullain's plea for gender equality: that the mind has no sex and that anatomy is not destiny. Thus the consideration of the historical legacy left by custom and tradition in light of Cartesian principles is necessary, and social values embedded in the patriarchal system need to be reexamined.

Keywords:   François Poullain, free thinking, reason, opinion, prejudice, René Descartes, principle of authority, education, equality, Cartesian principles

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