In this chapter it is argued that Mary Wollstonecraft’s political is best characterized as ‘feminist republicanism’. Wollstonecraft’s feminism challenges republicanism from within. The republican movement used the language of rights and liberty in arguments for popular sovereignty and against despotic and aristocratic privilege. Wollstonecraft articulated her feminism within and against this movement, which argued for the rights of all while taking for granted that ‘all’ is properly represented by white men with property. Her feminism requires the dismantling of all hierarchies, for the sake of freedom and virtue. Many have read Wollstonecraft as a liberal. If by liberal one simply means a philosophy based on natural rights and a principle of individual liberty, then Wollstonecraft was a liberal, but we do not gain any understanding of the particulars of her thinking in that way. The republican conception of personal freedom – independence or freedom from arbitrary rule – is an organising principle in Wollstonecraft’s thought. This conception of freedom feeds her feminist critique of republicanism: the sexism of republicanism is found in the definitional association of liberty and virtue with maleness. Of equal importance is her critical take on the civic humanist discourse of virtue as a way of living freely in society. Virtue is not a set of rules; it is the learnt habit of a resolute and independent personal character. This in turn requires that a person receives rational education and is treated with equal respect. Women are deliberately kept out of this sphere of moral progress. When Wollstonecraft ironically notes that ‘truth, fortitude and humanity’ are seen to be ‘manly morals’ she attacks, from within, the republican language that makes virtue into a male domain.
|Research areas and keywords
- Wollstonecraft, republicanism, feminism, rights, freedom
|Title of host publication||The Wollstonecraftian Mind|
|Editors||Sandrine Bergès, Eileen Hunt Botting, Alan Coffee|
|Place of Publication||Abingdon, Oxon|
|Publication status||Published - 2019 Jul|
|Name||Routledge Philosophical Minds|