Matilda Amundsen Bergström

A Happy Life. Women’s Moral Philosophy in 17th- and 18th-Century Scandinavia

What is a good life? Who decides? The project "A Happy Life" explores how Scandinavian female intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries treated these fundamental philosophical questions. This was a period when an older ideal that equated happiness with the ability to accept one’s changing fortunes gave way to a notion of ‘pursuit of happiness’ as a human right. Several Scandinavian women took part in this philosophical shift, publishing writing that addressed both humanity as a whole and women’s specific circumstances. But since they were excluded from the traditional institutions of moral philosophy, these women often resorted to unconventional arenas, genres, and modes of expression. They have, therefore, been largely ignored in the history of philosophy. To correct the faulty account of the period’s moral philosophy that has resulted from such neglect, this project will explore periodical essays, books of hymns and prayers, novels, poems, and pamphlets written by women in Sweden/Finland, Denmark, and Norway. The goal is to understand how, where and in what ways women intellectuals intervened in philosophical debates about the good life, and to challenge prevailing notions about what kinds of texts, perspectives and traditions can be considered philosophical. The result will be the first-ever wide-ranging study about Scandinavian women’s moral philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Grant administrator
University of Gothenburg
Reference number
SEK 2,242,000.00
History of Ideas