The Political Conditions for Free Agency. The Case of Mary Wollstonecraft

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In this chapter it is argued that the feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft regarded moral agency as an exercise of freedom; a person who is unfree cannot perform acts that are moral in the proper sense. There are three aspects to this deprivation: first, the psychological effects of oppression; second, processes of deliberation and reasons for action, and third, the moral character of an act, such that moral acts are characterized by being performed freely. This interpretation has radical implications for Wollstonecraft’s feminism since it means that women’s lack of freedom strips them of the capacity to be moral agents.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFreedom and the Construction of Europe. Volume II Free Persons and Free States
EditorsQuentin Skinner, Martin van Gelderen
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)978-1-107-03307-8
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


  • Wollstonecraft
  • politics
  • morality
  • freedom
  • independence
  • person
  • act
  • oppression
  • psychology
  • deliberation
  • reasons
  • agency


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