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Contra Locke, she says that we can affirm that the idea of thinking being excludes extension, and the idea of extended being excludes thought. Like Descartes, Astell maintains that the human person is composed of two substances: However, she makes few explicit statements about how the soul moves the body soul-body causation or how the body causes sensations body-soul causation.
Some of her statements appear to suggest that she upholds an occasionalist theory of body-soul causation. According to a Malebranchean occasionalist, neither bodies nor souls have any genuine causal efficacy; only God has the causal power to bring about modifications in the human mind. Other statements indicate that Astell holds an orthodox Cartesian interactionist position on soul-body and body-soul causation.
In the second Proposal, Astell also takes an orthodox Cartesian stance by suggesting that the body is disposed to make impressions on the soul and that the soul has an active power to effect changes in the body.
She advises her fellow women that they must learn the value of proper self-love and self-esteem: They must cease to live like animals or Cartesian machines, those purely material beings devoid of rationality; they must pursue what is conducive to their perfection as thinking, immaterial beings.
We can be assured, she says, that God always does what is best and most becoming of his infinite perfection; and so, we can be assured that the world and everything in it is created according to the eternal and immutable standards of rectitude.
It therefore becomes women to live their lives in accordance with the law of God and reason—this is the surest route to their happiness. Astell presents at least three different types of argument for the existence of God. In the same work, immediately following this proof, she formulates a cosmological argument for the existence of God based upon empirical observations about the created world.
In The Christian Religion, she once again takes a blended approach by presenting an ontological argument followed by a cosmological proof.
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Moreover, if any being is infinite in all perfections, then we cannot deny that that being exists; therefore, we cannot deny that God, an infinitely perfect being, exists.
In sections 7—8 of The Christian Religion, Astell strengthens this argument by asserting that an infinitely perfect being would have the perfection of self-existence, rather than ordinary everyday existence.
She asserts that God could not derive his being from anyone but himself; if God had derived his existence from someone or something else, then he would not be supremely perfect. So, God must have ontological independence or self-existence; he must exist by his own nature.
In the second Proposal, her argument begins with the idea of created or contingent beings. How were these contingent beings created? They cannot have had the power of giving being to themselves, because this would imply a contradiction; it would imply, that is, that they could both exist and not exist at the same time.
The thing that created these contingent beings would therefore have to be self-existent. It could not be another created, contingent being because this would lead to an infinite regress of such beings. Yet an infinite regress without a last resort offends our basic intuition that something cannot come from nothing ex nihilo nihil fit.
It follows that there must be a last resort or a first cause: Here she implicitly appeals to the principle that a cause must have qualities that are similar to, or higher in perfection than, those contained in its effect.
She then asks, how do we explain this phenomenon? If gravity is not an essential property of matter, then we must say that gravity proceeds from the will and power of a superior cause. But this superior cause cannot be material in nature, for that would imply that matter is superior to matter in general a contradiction ; so, the cause must be immaterial.
This superior immaterial cause, moreover, must have the will and power to sustain mutual attraction between bodies. In short, this cause must be the theistic God. Moral Theory In terms of her moral approach, Astell might best be described as a Christian deontologist; in her view, all human beings have a duty to live in accordance with the law of God.
Nevertheless, she is also a virtue theorist to the extent that she thinks that we ought to develop a disposition to obey the divine law, and developing this disposition requires us to cultivate virtue. These moral views can be found in all her works, but especially in her Letters, the second Proposal, and The Christian Religion. She warns that the bodily passions of love, hate, fear, desire, and joy can have a disturbing and disquieting effect on the human mind.
When we are in the thrall of such passions, we can get carried away and zealously pursue the wrong objects, often to our moral and spiritual destruction. The proper regulation of the passions thus plays an important role in the attainment of virtue. As a long-term strategy toward purification, we should meditate carefully on what is truly good and truly bad, and follow only those moral judgements that proceed from knowledge.
Crucial to this endeavor, we must learn to focus our attention on the right objects, including our own nature as thinking things, the true nature of material beings, and the nature of an infinitely perfect being. Moral agents often go astray, according to Astell, because they have mistaken or erroneous judgements about the nature and value of these objects.
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Benevolence is a wishing well toward others purely for the sake of promoting their well-being, and not for selfish motives. In her writings, the love of benevolence is often contrasted with the love of desire, a selfish egoistic kind of love for others, in which we desire to possess them. On this topic, her views have much in common with the Augustinian outlook of her correspondent John Norris. Like Norris, she maintains that a virtuous agent has properly ordered love.
In their Letters, they agree that human beings ought to cultivate an exclusive love of desire for God, an infinitely perfect being, because he is the only being who is truly capable of satisfying our desire. Toward our fellow human beings, we should feel only a love of benevolence; we should cultivate a disinterested goodwill rather than a selfish desire. Unlike Norris, Astell emphasizes that an exclusive desire for God can have the added benefit of helping us to regulate our passions and cultivate a non-possessive attitude toward others.
Like Descartes in his Passions of the Soulshe regards the virtue of generosity as a species of self-esteem, a valuing ourselves on the basis of some noble or worthy characteristic. More than this, generosity consists in recognizing that our moral worth consists in exercising our free will, plus a firm commitment always to do our best. Those who have the virtue of generosity eventually cease to desire the approbation of others, because they do not really care what the rest of the world thinks of their choices and actions.
So long as they themselves always endeavor to do what is best in their own minds, they are impervious to censure and ridicule. The difficulty for women, Astell says in her second Proposal, is that they have been culturally conditioned to value themselves on accidental properties such as their looks and their clothing.
They have acquired a mistaken sense of self-esteem because they have not been encouraged to value themselves as rational, thinking beings with freedom of will. To cultivate justified self-esteem, according to Astell, women must be permitted to train their reason and to study philosophy and religion. She thinks that Christianity in particular facilitates the cultivation of generosity, because it teaches them that what is truly valuable does not depend on the transient things of this world.
In her view, one of the chief benefits of her female academy is that it will enable virtuous friendships to flourish among women. Throughout her works, Astell appeals to different philosophical ideas to argue that women should receive a higher education, and to undermine the belief that women are naturally intellectually inferior to men. These ideas include an egalitarian conception of reason, the Cartesian concept of the thinking self, and certain teleological principles.
By contrast, Astell appeals only to an inward consciousness of thought. In her view, the fact that women are thinking things needs no proof or argument; a woman simply has to turn within herself and see that she is capable of exercising her mental faculties.
Astell emphasizes that the search for knowledge does not require the mastery of languages, such as Greek and Latin, nor does it require an extensive library or an intimate acquaintance with ancient authorities and obscure terminology. It simply requires the capacity to discern the truth for oneself, and the freedom to affirm or deny the ideas of the mind.
In terms of their capacity for rational judgement, Astell says, women are no different to men; they are on a par. She relies on the idea that if a woman is capable of entertaining a thought in her mind, then it is true that she thinks; it cannot be denied.
If so, then this provides indisputable evidence of their ability to reason. If women exhibit any defect in reasoning, Astell says, this defect is acquired rather than natural, and can be corrected through proper training and meditation. It should be noted that Astell differs from Descartes in emphasizing that we can never have a distinct idea of the self as a thing whose essence consists solely in thinking SPL II In her writings, she repeatedly emphasizes that an infinitely perfect being does nothing in vain; there can be no feature of his intelligent design that is redundant or superfluous in nature.
It follows that if God has bestowed rational minds upon women, then they ought to be permitted to use their minds toward the best ends. When a woman is taught that her duty is to serve a man, or to live a life devoted solely to bodily and material concerns, she is taught to disregard her sacred duty to God.
A woman must therefore be educated to use her reason to raise herself toward perfection, just as her creator intended. Although Astell regards marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God, she complains that in her day it has greatly degenerated from its original blessed state.
In the Reflections, her explicit purpose is to analyze why this degeneration has occurred and to see how it might be rectified. She traces the core problem to the moral failings of human beings—but to the failings of men in particular. She highlights the fact that most men do not marry from a love of benevolence toward women but rather from base and selfish motives, such as lust and greed.
I believe two of the greatest events ever to occur in the history of the world were—Abraham and Isaac, and Jesus and the Cross.
When we begin to understand what happened it is just unbelievable. Abraham was promised a son for years, and it took a long time for this son Isaac to come.
Then one day God says sacrifice him, your only son. Abraham did not argue—he understood what God wanted him to do and he prepared to do it. Abraham knew God, he loved God, he wanted to please Him and no one else. He developed this relationship with God over decades and then was called upon to do something radical, something crazy, but he loved God so much that he went ahead with it. What drove Abraham up the mountain that day with Isaac? Did he have a good plan? Did he think it over and think it was a good idea?
Did it make sense from a human perspective? No and definitely no! Abraham wanted to please God, and the only way we can please God is by faith.
Abraham had free will. Jesus cried out to God for plan B. Abba, if there is any way we can do this another way, not my will but your will, Abba. Jesus had free will plus the ability to end it at any time by calling down legions of angels to annihilate anyone and everyone—to end plan A.
What drove Jesus up the mountain to complete the greatest act ever?