The Political Theology of Mary Astell

Dr. Eleonora Cappuccilli (Bologna) gave her talk on "The Political Theology of Mary Astell" as part of the Research Colloquium "History of Women Philosophers" at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientsists (Paderborn University) last Tuesday (May 23rd).

In the increasingly rich landscape of research concerning the reflection of Mary Astell (1666-1731), her political theology remains still widely understudied. Starting from the general consideration that political theology is a useful paradigm to understand modernity, and specifically the conditions of political discourse in early modern England, to look at Mary Astell’s political thought through this paradigm can contribute to shed a new light on her thinking as a whole. In order to do so, political theology shall be uncoupled by breaking the conceptual unity that lies behind Carl Schmitt’s theorization, thus allowing to understand the implications of the triple loyalty of Astell – to the sovereign, to the Established Church and to the female sex. On the one hand, political theology helps to understand her stand on the relationship between legitimacy and obedience, that lies at the core of the making of the modern State. On the other hand, Mary Astell hits political theology with devastating force, insofar as she criticizes the patriarchal foundations that the spiritual and the temporal principles of authority historically share. (EC)

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