Reason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the order and disorder of nature

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (2):157-191 (2007)
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According to Margaret Cavendish the entire natural world is essentially rational such that everything thinks in some way or another. In this paper, I examine why Cavendish would believe that the natural world is ubiquitously rational, arguing against the usual account, which holds that she does so in order to account for the orderly production of very complex phenomena (e.g. living beings) given the limits of the mechanical philosophy. Rather, I argue, she attributes ubiquitous rationality to the natural world in order to ground a theory of the ubiquitous freedom of nature, which in turn accounts for both the world's orderly and disorderly behavior.


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Karen Detlefsen
University of Pennsylvania