Professor Deborah Boyle

American Philosophical Association Fellow
Prof. Deborah Boyle

American Philosophical Association Fellowship, February - April 2021

Home Institution: Department of Philosophy, College of Charleston


Deborah Boyle is a professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, USA. Her primary research interests are in the history of early modern and modern philosophy, particularly the works of women philosophers working in those periods. She is the author of The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish (Oxford UP, 2018) and Descartes on Innate Ideas (Continuum, 2009), as well as the editor of Margaret Cavendish: Philosophical Letters, Abridged (forthcoming from Hackett Publishing) and Lady Mary Shepherd: Selected Writings (Imprint Academic, 2018). She has published articles and book chapters on Cavendish, Shepherd, Anne Conway, Mary Astell, Descartes, and Hume. Prof. Boyle is also the editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy.



Prof. Boyle is currently writing a book, Mary Shepherd: A Guide, under contract with Oxford University Press. Lady Mary Shepherd, who was born and raised just outside of Edinburgh, wrote two philosophical treatises, An Essay on the Relation of Cause and Effect (1824) and Essays on the Perception of an External Universe (1827). While these works were well received in her day, they soon fell into oblivion. Now, Mary Shepherd’s philosophical work is finally receiving attention from historians of philosophy, and there is increasing interest in teaching her work in university courses, since she engages with key themes in metaphysics and epistemology that are discussed by canonical figures such as Hume, Thomas Reid, and George Berkeley. However, there is still relatively little secondary literature on Shepherd’s two treatises. Prof. Boyle’s book will guide readers new to Shepherd through these two books.


Selected Publications

“Feminism and Early Modern Philosophy.” Forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Philosophy, ed. Ásta Sveinsdottir and Kim Q. Hall.

“Mary Shepherd on the Meaning of ‘Life.’” British Journal for the History of Philosophy special issue on Women Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century (forthcoming), DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2020.1771271

“A Mistaken Attribution to Lady Mary Shepherd.” Journal of Modern Philosophy 2, no. 1 (June 2020),

“Mary Shepherd on Mind, Soul, and Self.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 58, no. 1 (January 2020): 93–112.

“Informed by ‘Sense and Reason’: Margaret Cavendish’s Theorizing about Perception.” The Senses and the History of Philosophy, ed. Brian R. Glenney and Filipe Pereira da Silva. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.

“Hume and Animal Ethics.” The Humean Mind, ed. Angela Coventry and Alex Sager, pp. 470–80. London: Routledge, 2019.

“Margaret Cavendish on the Eternity of Created Matter.” Early Modern Women on Metaphysics, ed. Emily Thomas, pp. 111–30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“Expanding the Canon of Scottish Philosophy: The Case for Adding Mary Shepherd.” The Journal of Scottish Philosophy 15 no. 3 (2017): 275–93.

“Freedom and Necessity in the Work of Margaret Cavendish.” Women and Liberty 1600–1800, ed. Jacqueline Broad and Karen Detlefsen, pp. 141–62. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

“Margaret Cavendish on Perception, Self-Knowledge, and Probable Opinion.” Philosophy Compass 10, no. 7 (July 2015): 438–50.