Mary Wollstonecraft and Freedom as Independence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Halldenius argues that we should regard Mary Wollstonecraft as a feminist republican, drawing out the implications of reading her in that way for the meaning and role of freedom in Wollstonecraft’s philosophy. Her republicanism directs our attention to the fact that freedom for Wollstonecraft is conceptualized in terms of independence, importantly in two analytically distinct yet heavily interdependent ways. There is a long philosophical tradition of treating moral freedom as an internal phenomenon, as an aspect of freedom of the will. Wollstonecraft makes this inner freedom politically conditioned. Liberty is independence in relation to others and in relation to the law and institutions of society, but also a kind of inner intellectual independence. Attending to the dynamics between the external and internal aspects of independence is crucial for our understanding of Wollstonecraft’s view of society and morality, but also of her philosophical method, which is to reason through lived experience. What liberty is and requires can only be articulated by “poor men, or philosophers”, as she puts it in A Vindication of the Rights of Men, 1790. Halldenius argues that the “poor man” here represents the philosophical vantage point. The view of the unprivileged, of those with no wealth or titles to lose, constitutes the disinterested, impartial view. Wollstonecraft’s emphasis on the lived experience of unfreedom and subordination as a valid source of knowledge implies that a crucial question regarding freedom and unfreedom is not only what freedom is, but what it is like.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas
  • Philosophy


  • Mary Wollstonecraft, freedom, independence, republicanism
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen and Liberty, 1600-1800
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Essays
EditorsJacqueline Broad, Karen Detlefsen
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780198810261
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch

Related research output

Lena Halldenius, 2017, (Accepted/In press) Mary Wollstonecraft in Context. Johnson, N. E. & Keen, P. (eds.). Cambridge University Press

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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Related projects

Lena Halldenius


Project: Research

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Related activities

Halldenius, L. (Invited speaker)
2017 Mar 30

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation

Halldenius, L. (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2016 Nov 25

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

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