Anne Conway (philosopher)

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Anne Conway
Born Anne Finch
(1631-12-14)14 December 1631
London, England
Died 18 February 1679(1679-02-18) (aged 47)
London, England
Occupation Philosopher
Nationality British

Anne Conway (also known as Viscountess Conway) (née Finch; 14 December 1631 – 18 February 1679) was an English philosopher whose work, in the tradition of the Cambridge Platonists, was an influence on Leibniz. Conway's thought is original as it is rationalist philosophy, with hallmarks of gynocentric concerns and patterns, and in that sense it was unique among seventeenth-century systems.[1]

History of life

She was born to Sir Heneage Finch (who had held the posts of the Recorder of London and Speaker of the House of Commons under Charles I) and his second wife, Elizabeth (daughter of William Cradock of Staffordshire). Her father died the week before her birth. Her early education was by tutors and included Latin, to which she later added Greek and Hebrew. Her stepbrother, John Finch, was educated at Cambridge, and Anne Finch (as she then was) came into contact with one of his tutors, the Platonist Henry More. This led to a correspondence between them on the subject of Descartes' philosophy, in the course of which Anne grew from More's informal pupil to his intellectual equal. More said of her that he had "scarce ever met with any Person, Man or Woman, of better Natural parts than Lady Conway" (quoted in Richard Ward's The Life of Henry More (1710) p. 193).

In 1651 she married Edward Conway, later 1st Earl of Conway, and in the following year More dedicated his book Antidote against Atheism to her. Her husband was also interested in philosophy and had himself been tutored by More, but she went far beyond him in both the depth of her thought and the variety of her interests. She became interested in the Lurianic Kabbalah, and then in Quakerism, to which she converted in 1677. In England at that time the Quakers were generally disliked and feared, and suffered persecution and even imprisonment. Conway's decision to convert, to make her house a centre for Quaker activity, and to proselytise actively was thus particularly bold and courageous.

Her life from the age of twelve (when she suffered a period of fever) was marked by the recurrence of severe migraines. These meant that she was often incapacitated by pain, and she spent much time under medical supervision and trying various cures (at one point even having her jugular veins opened). She had medical consults from Dr. Thomas Willis.[2] None of the treatments had any effect. She died in 1679 at the age of forty-seven.


  • The principles of the most ancient and modern philosophy (London: n. publ., 1692) 168 pp. in 12°. — originally printed in Latin: Principia philosophiae antiquissimae et recentissimae de Deo, Christo & Creatura, Amsterdam: M. Brown 1690.
  • Letters. The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More and their friends, 1642–1684, ed. M. H. Nicolson (London 1930) 517 pp.
  • Collaborations with Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont (1614–1698)
    • A Cabbalistical Dialogue (1682) (in Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, Kabbala denudata, 1677–1684)
    • Two Hundred Quiries moderately propounded concerning the Doctrine of the Revolution of Humane Souls (1684).


  1. Jane Duran (2006). Eight Women Philosophers: Theory, Politics, And Feminism. University of Illinois Press. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-0-252-03022-2. Retrieved 13 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Carol Wayne White, The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631-1679): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism (2008), p. 6.

Further reading

  • Lois Frankel, "Anne Finch, Viscountess Conway," Mary Ellen Waithe, ed., A History of Women Philosophers, Vol. 3, Kluwer, 1991, pp. 41–58.
  • Alan Gabbey, "Anne Conway et Henry More: lettres sur Descartes" (Archives de Philosophie 40, pp. 379–404)
  • Peter J. King, One Hundred Philosophers (New York: Barron's, 2004) ISBN 0-7641-2791-8
  • Hutton, Sarah. Anne Conway, a Woman Philosopher. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Hutton, Sarah (1970–80). "Conway, Anne". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 20. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 171–172. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carolyn Merchant, "The Vitalism of Anne Conway: its Impact on Leibniz's Concept of the Monad" (Journal of the History of Philosophy 17, 1979, pp. 255–69)
  • Claus Bernet (2004). "Anne Conway (philosopher)". In Bautz, Traugott (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 23. Nordhausen: Bautz. cols. 232–239. ISBN 3-88309-155-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links