Who is Mary Astell?

Who is Mary Astell?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Mary Astell was an English philosopher who lived from 12 November 1666 to 11 May 1731. Astell is also known as a writer. Mary Astell is also recognized as the first British feminist writer.

Mary Astell was born in Newcastle and spent her adulthood in London. Its financial backers were Lady Ann Coventry, Lady Elizabeth Hastings and Catherine Jones. His intellectual circle included Lady Mary Chudleigh, Judith Drake, Elizabeth Elstob, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and John Norris.

Astell is best known today for her theories on women’s educational rights and for her criticisms of Norris and John Locke.


Mary Astell shaped her metaphysics around the ideas of God and creation. According to him, God is the infinite and immortal mind; the human mind and spiritual particles are finite, infinite beings; the human body and physical objects are finite, perishable, perishable entities.

Astell’s Conception of God

According to Astell, God is the “First Mind”, the being that, by its very nature, must have all the abilities infinitely. Astell lists these competencies as wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, intelligence, presence, power, and self-existence.

Astell, in accordance with the rational views of the period, argues that a correct understanding of metaphysics will lead to a correct understanding of God. Therefore, she devoted much of her work to showing not only what God is, but also how true knowledge of him can be obtained.

Mary Astell

His first book, “A Serious Proposal to the Ladies”, in which he deals with the existence, perfection and creative power of God, is Descartes’ “Discourse on Method” and Arnauld and Nicole’s “A Serious Proposal to the Ladies” to give examples of the right method to reach knowledge. It starts with the explanations in the “Logic or the Art of Thinking” books.

Astell’s proofs of God’s existence contain simple and organized explanations. Clear and easily distinguishable perceptions; incomprehensible and complex perceptions; explanations that are satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity; proofs by intuition and proofs by comparison of ideas; Our ideas about God’s perfection and God’s perfection; the relationship between concepts and our thoughts…

Astell frames other proofs of God’s existence with explanations of what we can and cannot doubt in “The Christian Religion.” Our thoughts on God’s perfection and God’s perfection; causality principle; the beauty of the created universe, etc.

Astell sometimes highlights some of God’s perfections over others. Explaining the ontological argument for God’s existence in “The Christian Religion,” he states:

“I see that my concept of God includes these and all other perfections. Self-existence is what I see as the most remarkable, original and the basis of everything else.”

This claim concerns the regularity of ideas: the idea that God exists by himself provides insight into his other perfections. A few lines later, he makes a similar claim about the order of reality:

“…and self-existence is such a perfection that it necessarily includes all other perfections.”


Astell develops three themes common to rationalism:

The value of mind that transcends matter,
The theory of innate ideas as a source of knowledge
A methodology that leads from confusion to clarity.

Astell argues that the mind has two faculties: understanding and will. Understanding is the capacity to receive and compare thoughts. Will is the power to choose between thoughts and actions and to direct them.

Every faculty has an appropriate goal: the appropriate goal of understanding is truth. The proper goal of the will is goodness, which is the will of God. He can have knowledge when understanding is firm and strong. It is usual when the will is strong; that is, it is guided by understanding. The task of understanding is to govern the will.

Mary Astell

Astell has an understanding of innateism, in which there are not only innate ideas, but also innate tendencies. She explained that innate ideas are the “foundations of knowledge” that are “inseparable” of understanding and the source of our other ideas. She also states that we are born with tendencies “inseparable” from will.

Our innate ideas make us rational creatures. Irrational creatures, on the other hand, act within the framework of a mechanism according to the will of God. But people equipped with reason act voluntarily: we choose our actions according to the principles of our reasoning, and we determine our wills accordingly (Astell 2002, 128). (For more on these passages, see Atherton 1993, 29-35 and Sowaal 2007, 228-31.)

Astell offers two explanations of ideas, one general and the other absolute. In doing so, clear and distinct views on information