Life, Letters and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon de L'Enclos

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Life, Letters and Epicurean Philosophy of Ninon de L'Enclos

Celebrated Courtesan

Authored by Ninon de L'Enclos

A salonnière during the reign of Louis XIV, Ninon de Lenclos embodied libertinism in both theory and practice. As a notorious courtesan, Lenclos scandalized France by her numerous affairs with prominent statesmen and ecclesiastics. As a philosopher, she justified sexual license by her naturalistic theories of human nature and of morality. In Lenclos's perspective, the human person is demonstrably a part of material nature. Allegedly spiritual human experiences, love in particular, are only a sophisticated variation on animal instincts. Rather than being a pursuit of spiritualized virtue, human moral conduct is the effort to expand pleasure and to eliminate pain. Within the hierarchy of pleasures, romantic love constitutes the pinnacle. Lenclos condemns the ascetical ethics of monastic Christianity and of Platonism because it has exalted a spiritualized love which is illusory and impossible to practice. In her mechanistic theory of the world, material causation is responsible for many of the intellectual and volitional activities other philosophers wrongly attribute to an immaterial soul. Through her naturalistic metaphysics and her ethics of the primacy of pleasure, Lenclos contributed to the Epicurean revival of the French Renaissance. In her insistence on the equal rights of women and men to the pursuit of pleasure, Lenclos developed a gendered version of Epicureanism which challenged her society's subordination of women to men.

Publication Date:
1481871161 / 9781481871167
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5" x 11"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Biography & Autobiography / Women

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