Damaris Cudworth Masham

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Damaris Cudworth Masham (18 January 1659 – 20 April 1708) was an English philosopher. Born Damaris Cudworth, she became Lady Masham upon her marriage to Sir Francis Masham in 1685. She was the daughter of Cambridge Platonist philosopher Ralph Cudworth and a friend of John Locke, an English philosopher of what later came to be termed as the empiricist school. She published two works on issues of theology, epistemology, and moral philosophy, and corresponded with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Locke on metaphysical issues.

In her published books, Masham argued for improved education for women and objected to double standards of "virtue" for women and men. Masham's first work, A Discourse Concerning the Love of God, argued against the view that God was the only proper object of human love, whilst her second concerns the education of children, with the prime concern of that education to produce 'virtuous' children.

Recently, Masham has been recognized for her contributions to early feminist thought. Unlike her male contemporaries who devalue the importance of women and their relevance to social and political life, Masham argued that mothers were essential to the well-being of political society. In addition, she also advocated women's participation in disciplines long dominated by men: sciences and philosophy.

Primary sources[edit]

  • Masham, Damaris Cudworth, A Discourse Concerning the Love of God, Printed in London for A. and J. Churchil at the Black-Swan in Paternoster-Row, 1696.
  • Masham, Damaris Cudworth, Occasional Thoughts in reference to a Virtuous or Christian Life, Printed in London for A. and J. Churchil at the Black-Swan in Paternoster-Row, 1705.
  • Beer, E. S., The Correspondence of John Locke, vol II (of VII) (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1976).

Commentaries[edit]

  • Frankel, Lois, "Damaris Cudworth Masham," Mary Ellen Waithe, ed., A History of Women Philosophers, Vol. 3, Kluwer, 1991, pp. 73–85. (Reprinted from Hypatia, 1989). Also reprinted in Linda Lopez McAlister, ed., Hypatia's Daughters: 1500 Years of Women Philosophers, Indiana University Press.

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