Although excluded from the standard account of the history of philosophy, Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679-1749) avoided the 17th-century bias against female intellectual skills and was an active contributor to the early modern philosophical discourse. In her Defence of Mr. Locke’s Essay (1702), she defended Locke from several criticisms by Thomas Burnet (1635-1715). By analysing three of Burnet’s main arguments, such as the theory of natural conscience, his anti-voluntarism, and his belief in the immateriality of the soul, Trotter showed that he often misinterpreted John Locke’s principles, especially those concerning his moral epistemology. Moreover, beyond her apologetic aim, she also presented her own moral philosophy, arguing that the true ground of morality is the rational and social nature of human beings. Although Trotter was clearly inspired by John Locke, her Defence was not simply a vindication, and she was not his mere handmaiden, for her thought was original and independent in many respects.
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