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30 July - 3 August 2018

The Unknown Du Châtelet. The St. Petersburg Manuscripts

Summer School | 11:30 AM - 5:00 PM | Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists

Lecturers: Ana Rodrigues (Paderborn University), Dr. Stefanie Ertz (Center HWPS)


In 2017 the Center History of Women Philosophers and Scientists and the National of Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, agreed upon a collaborative digital edition of the Du Châtelet manuscripts preserved in the Voltaire Collection of the NLR. Some of these manuscripts – which include a translation of Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, annotations to Voltaire’s Traité de Métaphysique, and a short tract on the metaphysics of liberty – were published by Ira O. Wade in his Studies on Voltaire with some Unpublished Papers of Mme du Châtelet (1947), but not all. This course will be dedicated to Du Châtelet’s translation and critical reworking of Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees.

Mandeville’s Fable is a milestone in early modern political philosophy, as it initiated a decidedly ‘sociologist’ turn in the history of moral skepticism and relativism. By shifting the focus of his analysis of moral causation from the contemporarily prevailing discourse on physical causation to the determination of the individual’s moral inclinations and behavior by social structures and social utility, Mandeville carried ad absurdum the central claim of early modern natural law theory, which was to derive universal moral principles from the concept of the individual’s social inclinations as a sort of pre-established harmony between amor sui and amor alterius.

As Du Châtelet’s intense reworking, particularly of Mandeville’s programmatic Enquiry into the Origins of Moral Virtue, documents, she was well aware of the critical as well as provocative relevance of The Fable of the Bees. Whereas highly estimating Mandeville’s – often shocking – social realism and moral psychology, she rejected its underlying theory of morality. Thus, her translation and reworking is, on the one hand, a critique of Mandeville, on the other hand, she uses his text as a template to elaborate her own moral and social theory.

This section of the Libori Summer School 2018 will be dedicated to

  • a close reading of the most philosophically important passages from Du Châtelet’s “translation” in comparison with the original.
  • contextualising Du Châtelet’s critique of Mandeville in early 18th century natural law theory and moral philosophy..
  • critically reconstructing the main features of her own moral thought.

All interested parties are welcome to apply! Visit: Libori Summer School 2018

30 July - 3 August 2018

11:30 AM - 5:00 PM


Paderborn University
Warburger Straße 100
Paderborn, NRW 33100 Germany
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