Although the natural philosophy of Margaret Cavendish is eclectic and uncustomary, it offers an important critique of contemporary scientific methods, especially mechanism and experimentalism. As presented in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and Blazing World, Cavendish's natural philosophy incorporates rationalistic and subjective elements, urging contemporary natural philosophers to recognize that pure objectivity is unattainable through any method of inquiry and that reason is essential in making sense and use of scientific observation.
In addition to its scientific implications, Cavendish's three-tiered model of matter presents interesting sociopolitical associations. Through her own use of metaphor and her theoretical fusion of matter and motion, Cavendish confronts the masculinist metaphors and implications of mechanism. Through the dramatization of her model of matter in the narrative Blazing World, Cavendish exposes the theoretical failings of contemporary methods and legitimizes her alternative to pure experimentalism. By envisioning a new planet to place the utopia of Blazing World, Cavendish actively uses the rational functions of the mind, showing that reason and rational matter are above all else in natural philosophy.
Although Cavendish's scientific theory in some ways promotes the participation of women in natural philosophy, it becomes complicated as she simultaneously reinforces her social biases and urges a traditional class system with a monarchical government. Cavendish actively separates the gender constraints in philosophical inquiry from the social limitations placed on the lower classes to promote herself and other aristocratic women in the pursuit of natural philosophy, urging that the rational realm, where all sexes are equal, should govern scientific investigation.
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BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bolander, Alisa Curtis, "Margaret Cavendish and Scientific Discourse in Seventeenth-Century England" (2004). All Theses and Dissertations. 29.
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