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A Woman's Influence? John Locke and Damaris Masham on Moral Accountability

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 67, Number 3, July 2006
pp. 489-510 | 10.1353/jhi.2006.0022


Some scholars suggest that John Locke's revisions to the chapter "Of Power" for the 1694 second edition of his Essay concerning Human Understanding may be indebted to the Cambridge Platonist, Ralph Cudworth. Their claims partly rest on evidence that Locke may have had access to Cudworth's unpublished manuscript treatises on free will and moral accountability. In this paper, Jacqueline Broad examines an alternative suggestion — the claim that Cudworth's daughter, Damaris Cudworth Masham, and not Cudworth himself, may have exerted an influence on Locke's revisions. The plausibility of this claim is discussed in light of the relevant historical and textual evidence.

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