The seventeenth-century philosopher Damaris Masham (1658/59–1708) had an intimate and emotional relationship with her friend and companion John Locke (1632–1704), and corresponded with him over many years. Her extensive surviving letters to Locke have been largely overlooked by scholarship on her philosophy. Setting Masham’s letters in the context of philosophical and historical scholarship on autobiography, as well as Berel Lang’s work on philosophical genre, I argue that her letters to Locke should be read as a form of philosophical autobiography. By doing so, unrecognized aspects of Masham’s philosophical position on selfhood and sociability are made visible. Furthermore, I show how the personal and the philosophical are inextricable in the letters and argue that lived emotional experience is of philosophical value. This point is of particular import in the project of retrieval of women philosophers throughout history, but should also be taken into account in the context of a modern philosophical milieu that often privileges “arguing that” as the only legitimate mode of philosophical practice.

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