HFIK03901U FILO, Module 4: Research Subject - History of Philosophy: The mind has no sex? Women philosophers of the seventeenth century

Volume 2018/2019

Kandidatuddannelsen i Filosofi 2017-ordningen


During the seventeenth century, many philosophical developments took place that still have an impact on the way we think today, be it in the realm of theoretical or of practical philosophy. However, it is also the time when more and more women participated in philosophical debates of their days; and François Poullain de la Barre (1647-1723) famously declared that “the mind has no sex”. But women philosophers had to face serious obstacles when participating in the learned world.

In this class, we will focus on the thought of three women philosophers of the seventeenth century, namely Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1650), Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618-1680), and Anne Conway (1631-1679). Although they were engaged in different philosophical debates, they all illustrate the complex and problematic relation between sex, gender and philosophy.

The aim of the course is threefold:

  1. to investigate the thought of three women philosophers and relate it to philosophical debates of their time
  2. to investigate what obstacles women had to face when entering philosophical debates
  3. to investigate what impact sex and gender had on the writings of women philosophers.

We will also critically engage in the historiography of philosophy and investigate how women philosophers are represented in standard accounts of the seventeenth century.


Learning Outcome

Kandidatuddannelsen i Filosofi, 2017-ordningen:

Modul 4: Forskningsfag - filosofihistorie: HFIK03901E


  • Arcangela Tarabotti, Paternal Tyranny, ed. Letizia Panizza, Chicago: UCP 2004.
  • Elisabeth of Bohemia, The correspondence between Elisabeth of Bohemia and René Descartes, Chicago: UCP 2007.
  • Anne Conway, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, ed. Allison P. Coudert and Taylor Corse, Cambridge: CUP 1996.



Suggested background reading:

  • Alanen, Lilli, and Witt, Charlotte, eds., (2004): Feminist Reflections on the History of Philosophy, Dordrecht/Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Hutton, Sarah (2015): “’Blue-eyed Philosophers Born on Wednesdays’: An Essay on Women and the History of Philosophy”, The Monist 98: 7–20
  • O’Neill, Eileen (1998): “Disappearing Ink: Early Modern Women Philosophers and Their Fate in History”, in Janet Kourany (ed.), Philosophy in a Feminist Voice: Critiques and Reconstructions, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 17-62.
  • Witt, Charlotte and Shapiro, Lisa (2018): “Feminist History of Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 148,75
  • Total
  • 204,75
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment