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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. - Scholar's Choice Edition

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. - Scholar's Choice Edition.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Mary Wollstonecraft(Author)

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Book details

  • PDF | 340 pages
  • Mary Wollstonecraft(Author)
  • Scholar's Choice (February 19, 2015)
  • English
  • 7
  • Politics & Social Sciences

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Review Text

  • By Pretend Person on July 22, 2017

    Yes, her views regarding women were the most enlightened of her time, perhaps even of our own time, but she was not a single-issue thinker. Her thinking was actually quite comprehensive as I hope to show here. Her thoughts reach to cover the issues of capitalism and commerce as well as the intellectual issues of her day. The issues of her day included the two great upheavals of the early modern period, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. In comprehensive fashion, she authored both, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Men’ (1790) and ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1792). This latter work especially, was quite brave in that it was bound to be received by a hostile audience though it was eventually well received. Her appeal was to intellectual capacity, not prejudice or privilege. This work is balanced and thus all the more powerful for it. It was primarily a pleading for equality of educational opportunity for women and that with this education, women could become full participating and contributing members of society alongside men as equals to the overall improvement of the human condition for both men and women. It would seem that historical events since her time have largely confirmed this hypothesis. This book is written in that delightful subjunctive, luxuriant and leisurely style of eighteenth-century prose replete with generous metaphors, allusions and aphorisms. This prose style, though enchanting, may seem prolix to modern readers and might take some getting accustomed to but well worth the effort.Wollstonecraft linked the condition of women to the political, economic and social structure of her society. This brings her to comment on the questions of capitalism and commerce, property, class and law. In her view, proper education for women would make them fully contributing members and in one manner, makes this an economic argument for the rights of women. Her main point is that educated women can make a valuable contribution to the overall improvement of the human condition and that there is no natural, biological or psychological reason why women could not be educated, the same as men. However, many of her pleading are to overcome the outcomes of property. To wit: “From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such a dreary scene to the contemplative mind.” And, “one class presses on another; for all are aiming to procure respect on account of their property…” In this it would seem that Wollstonecraft was eager for women to be full participants in a corrupting system where concentration on property displaces contemplation and concentration of property replaces virtue. A world where property and power (“The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilization a cure…”) are the foundations of respect, not talent, contemplation and virtue. This is still the world in which we dwell, in which we are condemned to dwell. This apparent contradiction can be explained in that I believe Wollstonecraft recognized that property, profit and politics as having only instrumental value, not intrinsic value. Economics based on property and government based on force is just what we make necessary to regulate our greed for wealth, our lust for power and the brutish competitive behavior that our own tendencies necessitate. To say it another way, the problem is that property is necessary for human well-being, but property, by its very existence, necessities inequity among human beings. This leaves us with the unsettling conclusion that inequity among human beings is necessary for human well-being. It is due to our, as of yet, not fully evolved nature that we are compelled to organize our affairs around the primitive concepts of property and power which serve us instrumentally but are not of intrinsic value. This is the world that Wollstonecraft describes as “…the world is almost, literally speaking, a den of sharpers or oppressors.” This is the world in which women are eager to join men as equals? Why? Her pleading is that we cannot and will not evolve any further if half the human race is “…chained to its bottom by fate, for they will continually be undermining it [humanity] through ignorance or pride.” Let us put this way, where women are in chains, men are not free. Actually, her attack on property is not sustained through the work. In fairness, I read her attack as against inherited, not earned wealth, to which Wollstonecraft objects based on the indolence in breeds. A sustained attack upon property and wealth would render her a proto-Marxist which I believe would be a misreading. Thus, there is not a contradiction in women having an equal opportunity to earn wealth and positron in the world, but such things are purely instrumental to human well-being given who we are and not intrinsically valuable as talent, virtue and contemplation.Where I must part company with Wollstonecraft is in her support of sudden and abrupt change as the path to social improvement. For example, she supported the French Revolution, and the upheaval that it brought, as necessary to overcome the inertia of history and bring about beneficial change. This was done in ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Men’ (1790). The perspective found in the first ‘vindication’ informs the second ‘vindication’. Though she was correct in the need for the emancipation and equity of women and the French Revolution was likely the first venue in which we find women acting politically as a self-aware group, I believe that beneficial and lasting change comes about incrementally and at the margins. The most beneficial changes come from sustained evolution, not sudden upheaval. The demand for sudden upheaval only portrays the hubris and vanity of humans. I think the progress of women in the two centuries since Wollstonecraft proves this out. This progress was not made all at once, Mary Wollstonecraft’s best efforts notwithstanding yet her best efforts became a necessary part of the incremental, lasting and beneficial change. Sudden change brings too many unforeseen, unforeseeable and unintended consequences. A certain amount of intellectual maturity compels one to be suspicious of proposals for sudden and sweeping change as the panacea for a social ill. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

  • By Betsy R. on December 1, 2015

    A far more accurate title for this treatise would have been "Things I Hate" because that is what A Vindication literally is: a petulant and piqued list of the various and sundry things that Mary Wollstonecraft hates on a personal level, first and foremost among them being "pretty women." A suprising facet of this book is that Wollstonecraft finds "pretty women" to in fact be the root of all social ills and the number one problem in society ("pretty women" are railed against to an extent where this appears to be an obsession on the part of Wollstonecraft). This is not a treatise, it is a poorly-thought out and less than ideologically coherent rant. And it is not pro-women. A Vindication, in fact, is surprisingly and even viciously anti-women. Wollstonecraft is upfront and blunt in that she blames women for their own pathetic condition. And the treatise follows as a castigation of women generally and of everything deemed feminine. It is notable that the theory Wollstonecraft puts foward is that women must become more like men, and she ultimately aims at affecting a social revolution wherein the end result is that women become carbon copies of...herself. Contra the title of the treatise, political and civil rights are not only not the focus of the book - they are not even mentioned. As well, Wollstonecraft's understanding of political philosophy, in the few brief moments when she attempts to touch on it, is poor to such a degree that it discredits her work. Again, the focus of this treatise is personal pique, not political philosophy. Another problem is Wollstonecraft's lack of crediting certain philosophers: while she references the names of (all of the many) persons with whom she disagrees, she fails entirely to give credit or reference to the philosophers whose ideas she employs for herself. Wollstonecraft's "political-social theory" is pure Thomas More, she even uses direct words from Utopia in her treatise - all while failing to credit More at all. This habit of claiming another's theory as her own is repeated in her use of several of Immanuel Kant's maxims on ethics: she not only fails to reference Kant, she does the remarkable thing of claiming that she herself invented what are clearly just paraphrases of Kant's theory. This is disappointing and really discredits A Vindication. Overall, A Vindication is poor philosophy and reads more as an overly cranky rant. It is less a condemnation of the treatment of women and more a castigation of those horrible, horrible "pretty women."


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