Lisa Shapiro

Professor of Philosophy
On research leave May 2020-April 2021.



  • B.A. 1988, Wesleyan University
  • Ph.D. 1997, University of Pittsburgh

Areas of Interest

Early Modern Philosophy, Feminism and Philosophy
Also: Philosophy of Mind (especially perception and emotions), Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Personal Identity

Current Research Interests

My research interests are principally in early modern philosophy, and they take me in two directions, which sometimes intersect:

(1) the intersection of conceptions of human nature with accounts of human understanding; and (2) recovering and rehabilitating the philosophical work of women.

I am working on a book that shows how arguments for women’s education both is grounded in Descartes’s conception of a thinking thing and through criticizing the Cartesian account develops and enriches the Cartesian account of mind.

With regard to the first, even though it is a traditional philosophical problem I have approached it a little differently – by looking at philosophical accounts of emotions and affective states. I’m particularly interested in the role of pleasure, pain, and the passions or emotions, in our understanding (rather than in our motivations to action). I’ve focused on Descartes and Spinoza, but I have also written on Hume, Malebranche and Condillac. Related to this interest, I’ve edited two books: with Martin Pickavé Emotions and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy (OUP 2012), and Pleasure: A History (OUP 2018) in the Oxford Philosophical Concepts series.

With regard to the second area, I want it to be the case that more people can name and know something about the many, many women philosophers who did their thinking before the mid-20th century. Some names are familiar, like Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (I translated and edited her complete correspondence with René Descartes (Chicago, 2007), Margaret Cavendish, Mary Astell.) Others are less so, such as Moderata Fonte, Lucrezia Marinelli, Marie de Gournay, Marguerite Buffon, Madame de Maintenon, Catherine Trotter Cockburn, Olympe de Gouges, Emilie du Châtelet, Gabrielle Suchon, Marie Thiroux D'Arconville, Julie Lespinasse, to name a few. (See what I mean!) This work raises a lot of issues about the historiography of philosophy.

Currently, I am the Principal Investigator (PI) in SSHRC Partnership Grant to Extend New Narratives in the History of Philosophy. We are engaged in both retrieving philosophical works of women and individuals from other marginalized groups and sustaining the presence of these figures in the history of philosophy. Our overall goal is to help change the standards of practice in the history of philosophy to enable it to become more inclusive and diverse by changing the ways we do history of philosophy. Our Partnership currently includes 12 international academic institutions, 11 other co-investigators and over 70 collaborators.

Electronic versions of publications, as well as drafts of works in progress, can be found at


Other Recent Publications

  • “Princess Elisabeth and the Challenges of Philosophizing,” in Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618-1680). A Philosopher in Historical Context. Sabrina Ebbersmeyer and Sarah Hutton (eds.) Springer, (in press).
  • "Descartes and Spinoza on the Primitive Passions: Why So Different?" In Freedom, Action, and Motivation in Spinoza's Ethics. Noa Naaman Zauderer and Thomas Vinci (eds.). Routledge, 2019, pp. 62-81.
  • “L’amour, l’ambition, and l’amitié: Marie Thiroux D’Arconville on Passion ,Agency and Virtue” for Essays on Early Modern Women Philosophers, eds. Eileen O’Neill and Marcy Lascano, Kluwer, 2019.
  • "Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia as a Cartesian," in Oxford Handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism, ed. Tad Schmaltz and Steven Nadler. Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 287-302.
  • “Self-Consciousness and Consciousness of Self: Spinoza on Desire and Pride,” in Mind, Body, and Morality, edited by Martina Reuter and Frans Svensson. Routledge, 2019, pp. 143-156.
  • “Assuming Epistemic Authority, or Becoming a Thinking Thing,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 118, 3, (2018), 1-20.


This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.