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Stoicism and Eupatheia in Women's Writings of Early Modern England

This paper examines women’s engagement with Stoic ideas in early modern England (c. 1600–1700)It builds on recent literature in the field by demonstrating that there is a more positive gender-inclusive narrative to be told about Stoic philosophy in this time—one that neither excludes nor denigrates women’s specific concerns, but rather incorporates and responds to women’s lived experiences. To support this claim, the paper takes an interdisciplinary approach and examines several different genres of women’s writing in the period, including letters, poems, plays, educational texts, and moral essays. In these writings, it is argued, a distinctive conception of Stoic therapy emerges. Women embrace well-known aspects of the Stoic philosophy—such as living in agreement with nature, the importance of self-government, and the ideal of freedom from the passions—but they also allow room for the cultivation of eupatheiai or life-affirmative feelings, such as feelings of respect, affection, and good will toward other people.


Accommodation and its Social Face

The wheels of social life are turned by speakers doing things with words, and with each turn, there is a tendency for what is said to become acceptable, even if it was not so before. This ‘accommodation’ is a quiet engine of conversational success, purring along in the background, helping speakers do what they do, whether for good or ill. Lewis identified its workings in presupposition, permissibility, performatives, and a range of phenomena where what is said requires and thereby creates what is required, when certain conditions hold. I’ll examine the neglected social and political dynamics of accommodation: in social construction, building patterns of authority and intimacy, shaping social norms and hierarchies; in back-door testimony, communicating ideological assumptions taken for granted, and perpetuating prejudice. Accommodation is a quiet engine of social injustice as well as conversational success, so it may sometimes need to be blocked, or steered in a different direction.


Kant and Stoic Cosmopolitanism

In Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone, Kant posits a human duty to establish the “ethical commonwealth”, a social order to promote “the good in the human being” in the face of the moral corruption endemic in our communities.  The practical problem that the ethical commonwealth is meant to address has roots in Stoic accounts of human corruption; in light of this background, I explain how the ethical commonwealth is itself a reworking of the demanding cosmopolitan ideals of Stoic ethics.  For Kant, the duty at issue is not one that individuals have to other individuals, but rather one that the species, ostensibly as a corporate agent, has to itself.  Reasonably enough, Kant suggests that we can only work towards approximations of this arresting idea, and proposes a reformed “church” the best approximation, whereas some recent commentators propose secular models of friendship.  Although the friendship-based approximation has roots in the Roman Stoic Seneca (whom Kant read closely), and despite its independent philosophical appeal, I argue that this proposal misses the mark, and explore the possibility that Kant’s conception of the ethical commonwealth lies barely within the limits of intelligibility.


Reasons and Caution in Moral Deliberation

Many think moral decisions should err on the safe side: that caution provides a moral reason for choice. Under what reading(s) of ‘caution’ is that convincing? If ‘caution’ stands for describing and valuing the consequences of actions in the morally right way, then it provides a moral reason for choice, but trivially so.  What about a more distinct version of ‘caution’– to do with decision making under uncertainty? The prime candidate is risk aversion. I argue, however, that risk aversion in the various ways it is ordinarily understood is not a convincing moral reason for choice. This has important implications for personal deliberations and public debate. I develop an alternative way to understand ‘caution’ under uncertainty as a moral reason for choice. It depends on there being an aspirational benchmark or reference point which rightly transforms the relative expected gains and losses of our actions.


Indigenous Philosophy: Opportunities to Reimagine Philosophy in the Region

Interest in Indigenous Philosophy – not least in the philosophies of the Indigenous communities in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, South East Asia and the Pacific – is on the rise globally. This talk explores pūrākau (a form of indigenous storywork) and its role in Māori Philosophy. I contend that pūrākau are repositories of accumulated knowledge that not only contain Māori Philosophy but enable its critical engagement and cultivation. As such, practices of storytelling and storying are, I contend, vital to the creation and transformation of Māori concepts and ideas, and thereby (or so this chapter argues) vital to Māori philosophical inquiry. I end by detailing some of the ways in which pūrākau (and other forms of indigenous storywork) helps to better understand Indigenous philosophical projects and provides us with ways to reimagine philosophy in the region more broadly.

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