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Mary Wollstonecrafts A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Essay Example

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Despite of the fact that the majority of Enlighteners stood on patriarchal positions, ideas in protection of female rights and female emancipation for the first time have been stated during the epoch of Enlightenment. It is significant that one of the first who has formulated these ideas was a woman - Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) in her book "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792).
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Mary Wollstonecrafts A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
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Download file to see previous pages Grounding the idea of female rights, Wollstonecraft bases herself upon positions of the liberal theory of English philosopher John Lock about necessity of recognition of equal rights for all "full citizens".
Paradox of the concept of liberalism of Lock, directed against despotism of absolute power, is that as "full citizens" of a potential liberal society he considered independent in relation to a monarch owners private, mainly the land property, which first of all are attributed with the ability to possess intellect, that is to be rational subjects (be capable to operate own land). "The central idea behind Wollstonecraft's work is that women are rational beings and should be treated as such"2. According to Mary Wollstonecraft, as the theorist of the liberal concept of female rights, the most important becomes the philosophical thesis about recognition of a female subject rational. Only in that case a woman has a chance to enter into a liberal continuum of "full citizenship" described by Lock.
The other significant thesis is that female sensuality is not purely natural, but socially caused characteristic. Wollstonecraft states, "But, if women are to be excluded, without having a voice from a participation of the natural rights of mankind, prove first, to ward off the charge of injustice and inconsistency, that they want reason - else this flaw in your NEW CONSTITUTION will ever shew that man must, in some shape, act like a tyrant, and tyranny, in whatever part of society it rears its brazen front, will ever undermine morality"3.
In conformity with the above said theoretical issues, considering modern position of women Wollstonecraft recognizes that the majority of women are not yet ready to act in a line with men as their intellect is insufficiently developed because of prevalence of sensual characteristics in it.
However this position, in her opinion, is not a consequence of the special nature, female sensuality as considered Russo, or particular qualities of female intellect as considered Kant. Such state of facts first of all is a result of the limited female education, and secondly of deprivations of women of basic civil rights, that is a consequence of certain social reasons which can be changed. Wollstonecraft's aim particularly in "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" is "to add the individual and civil rights of women to the universal category"4. Therefore the main philosophical thesis of enlighteners, which was a subject of Wollstonecraft's critic, is Russo's thesis about "the special female nature", in which sensuality prevails of intellect. Wollstonecraft considers that femininity in that form as it is described by Russo, is a repressive social construct, which will cease to exist provided that socialization of women will pass in the same conditions as socialization of men.
The basic object of criticism of Wollstonecraft is so-called "superfluous sensuality" which is imputed to women in Russo's philosophical concept. In her book the author opposes men, who are admired of excessive female sensitivity and stand up for its development. It calls such men "tyrants of sexuality", and women, which agree to cultivate such type of sensuality in itself (sensuality of a sexual object) she calls "slaves of pleasures". Wollstonecraft accepts that owing to sensuality women has an opportunity to use a special form of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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