The salon was of particular importance in mid- to late seventeenth century France, enabling aristocratic women to develop a philosophical culture that simultaneously reflected and opposed the dominant male philosophy. Father Conley, S.J. explores the moral philosophies developed by five women authors of that milieu: Madame de Sable, Madame Deshoulieres, Madame de la Sabliere, Mlle de la Valliere, and Madame de Maitnenon.
Conley examines the various literary genres (maxim, ode, dialogue) in which these authors presented their moral theory. He also unveils the philosophical complexity of the arguments presented by these women and of the salon culture that nurtured their preoccupations.