The early modern philosopher Mary Astell aimed to bring about a moral and intellectual awakening in her fellow women so that they might attain excellence of character and true and lasting happiness. This chapter provides an introduction to her project of reformation, and explains the main purpose behind this book: to interpret Astell’s philosophy in terms of her theory of virtue. It offers a brief overview of the scholarly literature to date, and then situates this study in relation to the literature. The first part of the chapter discusses some of the major influences on Astell’s thought, such as Cartesian and Malebranchean philosophies of the period. The second part provides an account of Astell’s life and works; the third discusses her influence on subsequent generations; and the fourth provides an outline of the book as a whole.
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