Patrick Fessenbecker (Bilkent) “What do you have to do to get read philosophically? On Wollstonecraft and philosophical readings of the history of philosophy.”
There is a kind of reading practice that philosophers use almost instinctively: it’s what Richard Rorty has called “rational reconstruction.” Rational reconstructions, as he describes them, are above all concerned with finding the best possible argument in a text. Indeed, putting it this way almost makes it seem a trivially and obviously true claim about philosophical method — that this is just what it is to read philosophically. The interpreter imagines the author’s view as charitably as possible, often letting subsequent philosophical debate inform his view as to what the author might have been saying or trying to say, and occasionally drawing on other texts in the author’s oeuvre while dismissing parts of the central text as irrelevant, when such interpretive decisions seem necessary to make the view under consideration as strong as possible. Whatever else one might say about the methodological assumptions involved in this approach, it’s worth pressing on the almost implicit decisions about which writers to apply it to in the first place. Taking the history of criticism on Mary Wollstonecraft as an example, I suggest that there may be something of a circle in justifications of philosophical canons: a particular philosopher’s place within the canon is sometimes justified by appeal to the creative rational reconstructions his work yields, but the decision to apply the method of rational reconstruction in the first place is justified on the basis of his presence in the canon. I conclude by suggesting that the answer here is not to eliminate the practice of rational reconstruction, as some historians of ideas have suggested, but to broaden the range of writers to which it is applied and the kinds of justifications given for the approach.
Alan Coffee (King’s College London) “Wollstonecraft’s Idea of Independence as Relational Social Freedom“
I argue for an idea of independence as a socio-relational ideal that is useful in diagnosing and responding to cultural and structural threats to freedom. I use independence here in its historic republican sense of freedom as independence from arbitrary power. While republican freedom is more commonly understood today as freedom as non-domination, following Philip Pettit’s use, I draw on a distinctive set of arguments developed by Mary Wollstonecraft for whom independence is the central moral and political ideal around which her social and feminist arguments are constructed.
In spite of its everyday connotations, the term independence in Wollstonecraft’s sense is not a celebration of individualism or self-reliance. Instead it embodies an acknowledgement of the importance of personal and social relationships in people’s lives and reflects our connectedness rather than separateness. Independence is for this reason a relational ideal, although it differs in its basic structure from the notion of relational autonomy as it is often understood in its most well-known forms (such as the alternate versions offered by Marina Oshana and Catriona Mackenzie).
Wollstonecraft’s understanding of independence entails an idea of autonomy (as independence of mind) which is placed within a social and political framework of independence of action and opportunity. These two parts are brought together through the central idea of ‘arbitrariness’ that reconciles the individual and collective perspectives by appealing to a notion of the common good in which each person has a stake. I set out the internal logic of republican independence showing how the individual agent is reconciled to the collective decisions and intentions of the population. I frame this discussion in the context of the particular problem of reconciling social influence and individual agency in oppressive environments, raising the difficult question of how to recognise the profound and pervasive effect that domineering and marginalising cultural conditions have on subjected people’s lives, and on the choices they make, without thereby undermining or diminishing their status as self-governing agents. This is an especially difficult problem for many republicans because freedom is only considered to be undermined or reduced by intentional threats that can be attributed to the actions and decisions of individual agents, even if indirectly. Impediments that originate in the effects of collective cultural attitudes and social structures are said not to be traceable to individual intentions and are not thereby impediments to freedom.
One of Wollstonecraft’s great contributions to republican theory, I have argued elsewhere, was to show how social threats constitute an arbitrary source of power in just the same way as widely acknowledge sources such as economic or legal power. She does this by showing how the ability to reason, to represent interests, to shape legislation and to contest power is always tied to the background social conditions in which we are differentially situated. The general republican response to a threat to freedom is not to avoid the obstacle but to render it non-arbitrary. So, for example, when an unjust, or arbitrary, law threatens freedom we render it non-arbitrary by applying certain conditions that enable all individuals an equal opportunity to shape the law into a form that meets their common interests. Wollstonecraft’s arguments apply this strategy to cultural threats in the same way.
Lucas Thorpe (Boğaziçi) ” Is Virtue Relative? A problem with Wollstonecraft’s argument against ‘sexual virtues‘”
Rousseau, like many men of his time, argues that men and women naturally differ in at least two ways: Firstly, women ae weaker than men. Secondly, men have a stronger capacity of reason, and are drawn to the general, whereas women have a stronger capacity to feel and are drawn to the particular. For this reason, Rousseau concluded that women should be educated to serve their husbands and to develop their feelings rather than their reason.
Now such arguments appeal to seemingly empirical claims about the difference in natures between men and women and one way to counter such an argument would be to challenge the empirical premises. Wollstonecraft, however, does not, primarily, take this path. For she thinks that even if women were intellectually weaker than men, women should still be educated to develop their reason and to rule themselves rather than being ruled by their fathers and husbands.
Wollstonecraft does not want her argument to be hostage to empirical fortune. She does not start her argument with the claim that women are in general equal in intellectual strength to men, because she thinks that given the conditions of her time there was just no way of knowing whether this is true. She accepts the claim that women tend to be physically weaker than men. And she also agrees that most of the women in her society (and a large portion of men) were weak in reasoning, but suspects and gives arguments to support the hypothesis that this weakness is probably the result of the sort of education and upbringing that women at her time received rather than a result of natural difference. However, she also thinks it is possible that women, in general, are less rational than men. But she thinks that such questions are morally irrelevant, for as long as women have some capacity to reason, which she thinks is indisputable empirically even given the cultural environment of her time, then women should receive an education that cultivates their reason. Thus she argues that, “If women are by nature inferior to men, their virtues must be the same in quality, if not in degree, or virtue is a relative idea; consequently, their conduct should be founded on the same principles, and have the same aim.”
In claiming that virtue is not relative, Wollstonecraft means that there is a single measure of virtue that applies to all human beings. In contrast to Wollstonecraft I think that even though there might be a single criterion of virtue or a single principle of virtue, there are good reasons to think that what it is for a particular individual to be virtuous depends on their particular character. I will provide a number of Illustrations of this drawn from Kant. In particular I will briefly examine: (1) What Kant has to say about the intellectual division of labor in science. (2) Kant’s account of duties towards oneself as wide duties. (3) The way in which virtue may depend upon one’s particular temperament. I will argue that Kant’s position in all three cases is plausible and that he is committed to what Wollstonecraft would the “relativity of virtue”. But, if Kant’s arguments are right then individuals with different natures needs different types of educations and will be virtuous in different ways. But if this is the case empirical claims about natural differences might have some relevance in debates about education.
I will conclude by suggesting that Wollstonecraft is committed to the existence of a single virtue because she is committed to a very strong form of (neo-) Platonism, according to which virtue involves turning one’s soul to God. The singularity of virtue for Wollstonecraft is ultimately grounded in the singularity of God. And it is this Neo-Platonism that is the real source of why she thinks empirical claims about natural differences are irrelevant, for she is committed to the position that “the nature of reason must be the same in all, if it be an emanation of divinity”
Zübeyde Karadağ Thorpe (Hacettepe)”Turkish Women from Late Ottoman Empire to Early Turkish Republic“
In this paper I am planning look at Turkish women movements from late Ottoman Empire to Early Turkish Republic, which is between 1918 and 1928. In this period there are lots of journals published and some of them include women editors and writers as well. Among them there are two journals takes my attention. One is the longest published and very first feminist journal, called Kadınlar Dünyası (Women World). The other is Kadınlara Mahsus Gazete (The Journal Particularly for Women) where Fatma Aliye was writing feminist articles regularly. In this paper I am planning to take Mary Wollstonecraft’s book A Vindication of the Rights of Women as the center of my paper and use it as a guide for my readings. First, I will be mainly focusing on the journal Kadınlar Dünyası and the writings of Fatma Aliye in terms of education, virtue and independence where Marry Wollstonecraft puts very huge attention. Second, I will try to investigate if there were parallel ideas around such times among the Turkish women, or were they busy with different ideas that might contribute to philosophy in different way.
Sarah Hutton (York) “Becoming a feminist philosopher: Mary Wollstonecraft and the history of philosophy”.
Long considered the first feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, unlike other female/feminist philosophers of the past has not required restoration to visibility. Nevertheless, it is only recently that she has come to be recognised as a philosopher, even as a feminist philosopher. But the question still remains as to what kind of a philosopher she was. And, on the back of that, the question what kind of feminist she was deserves to be asked again. Considerable work has, of course, been done on her political thought and her historical context. But to understand Wollstonecraft’s deserved reputation and relevance today, I shall argue that we need a better understanding of her intellectual formation. Notwithstanding her prominent visibility today, I shall suggest that, in order to place her as a philosopher, we might treat her as a philosopher in need of recovery, and adopt the same kind of historically and philosophically attuned enquiry that has been successfully applied in recovering her lesser-known philosophical sisters from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Özlem Duva (Dokuz Eylül) “Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity with Mary Wollstonecraft“
From past to present we have often witnessed some dichotomies in mainstream philosophy. Since the Pythagorean table of opposites they have established ontological statutes of existence and the nature of the “woman” and “man”. Aforementioned disjunctive dichotomies like limit/unlimited, one/many, rest/motion, good/bad, man/woman, should be considered moral as much as epistemological. As Irigaray points out, all these opposites from the Pythagorean to Plato’s cave ideal imply the difference of nature between man and woman. Embedded moral codes in epistemological assumptions created the main problems of social constructions and reinforced the hegemony or power created by the ideal of masculinity. The emergence of feminism haven’t been sufficient to abandone the hegemonic masculinity yet. Although feminist movements objected to masculine ideals and its hegemonic character in general, some radical feminists stayed connected to Pythagorean/Platonic ideals in reverse order. Especially second wave feminism changed the course of the critics on sexism-hegemony relationship to expression of nature and problem of difference. Marry Wolstonecraft’s political approachment has a strong emphasis on critizing social inequality and unfairness. I assert that her feminism should rereading for analyzing hegemonic masculinity and to offer an alternative. Her legal struggle is a rebellion to hegemonic masculinity in her way. She also reminds us the masculine character of reason should be come up with political grounds and . I would like to open a discussion about Wolsstonecraft’s political struggle against especially “hegemonic masculinity” and useful aspects of her theory surpassing the dichotomies of second wave feminism which inherited from the Platonic ideals.
Burcu Gürkan (İstanbul Şehir) Swimsuits and Chocolate Chip Cookies: Women’s Bodies, Self-Knowledge, and Moments of Erasure.
Over 225 years ago Mary Wollstonecraft boldly asked us, amongst other things, to question the nature of truth and both the methodology and the outcomes of education in The Vindication of The Rights of Women. And it is from these lines of questioning that we draw upon in contemporary feminist thought. This kind of questioning led to one of the most powerful insights (and motivational forces) of the oft-quoted second-wave feminist slogan: “The Personal is Political!” This is the moment where the women’s movement erased the seemingly insurmountable division/boundary between the private sphere and the public sphere and in so doing brought into focus the intertwined relationship between the socio-political realities and women’s lives. This paper takes these insights from second-wave feminist theory and examines how these interactions have helped to establish and form identities in third-wave feminist theory with a grounding in post-colonial theory and ultimately what this means for current feminist epistemology. I examine what it means to be a woman who is Canadian with Turkish heritage, and is bi-lingual, bi-cultural, and bi-situated, where in either location (Turkey or Canada) the dominant culture does not recognize the elements/traces of the other culture. How this knowledge fits into the epistemic analysis of the relationship between the Self and the Other as specifically related to women and women’s bodies forms the theoretical groundwork for my examination of the philosophical analysis of silence and identity from a feminist perspective. It is a dichotomous relationship that I examine: the subject must understand herself as subject, yet the framework from within which this activity takes place can only see her mostly and primarily as an object, thereby forcing her to see herself as an object and subject at the same time. I contend that these can be useful moments to analyze these issues from within the discourse itself.
Laura Brace (Leicester) “The Unhappy Marriage of Gender and Slavery: Wives as Slaves, Wives and Slaves”
This paper explores how antislavery discourse has constructed wives as slaves, and in particular the ways in which the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Thompson and John Stuart Mill used the rhetoric of slavery to argue against the subjection of women. It begins by considering the position of enslaved black women such Mary Prince and Harriet Jacobs, and looks at the connections between marriage and freedom for those who were legal slaves, and then goes on to look critically at the appropriation of the figure of the suffering slave by white women activists in antislavery. What did it mean to claim, as Thompson did, that the state of the ‘civilized wife’ was worse than that of a female slave in the West Indies? What silences, occlusions and disavowals were required to sustain such an argument, and how do these continue to play out in our understandings of the past of slavery, in our memorialization of women’s involvement in abolitionism and in the discourse of modern slavery?
The final section considers the underlying issues of agency and power behind the construction of wives as slaves in the context of the power relations within the plantation household. What happens to the idea of marriage as a slave code when power wore a white female face and planters’ wives worked hard to sustain the system of slavery? How should the intimate and often violent relations between wives and slaves in constant domestic contact, and the resistance and agency of slave women inform our understandings of the legacies of slavery in the present?
Gözde Yıldırım (Boğaziçi) Is Wollstonecraft’s Republican Freedom from Domination Justified? – A Kantian Answer.
This paper appeals to Kant’s universal communicability requirement to justify
Mary Wollestonecraft’s republican freedom from domination. I show that both Kant and Wollstonecraft are republican thinkers because both argue that freedom ceases whenever a person confronts arbitrary influence and domination by others. Both Kant and Wollstonecraft point out that financial and legal dependence upon others entails a lack of freedom. Although Wollstonecraft and Kant both agree that freedom from domination is necessary to republican freedom, Wollstonecraft does not sufficiently justify her republican claims. I show how Wollstonecraft’s arguments can be grounded and justified by Kant’s communicability requirement. Kant’s universal communicability principle states that an action and its ground(s) are justified only insofar as they in principle can be communicated to each and every individual, so that any- and everyone else can consider this action and its ground(s) to be sufficiently justified and justifiable. This communicability requirement rules out maxims and actions which dominate or suppress others, precisely because such maxims and actions cannot be communicated – in the sense indicated – to those who are subjected to domination or suppression. This suffices to justify Wollstonecraft’s views on freedom from domination, because domination cannot be properly justified to each and everyone. I thus show that Wollstonecraft’s republicanism requires Kant’s communicability requirement to be justified.
Hatice Nur Erkizan (Muğla), “The Psychology of Capabilities: A journey from Wollstonecraft to Nussbaum”
In this study, I intend to examine the relation between Mary Wollstonecraft’s conception of woman in connection with Martha Nussbaum’s Capability Approach. In order to do so, I shall mainly examine the conception of women by men and in turn conception of woman by herself in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Then I will argue that Wollstonecraft’s reverence of independency as freedom for women has a close connection with Nussbaum’s Aristotelian version of capabilities approach which also emphasises the centrality of freedom. Since freedom is the expression of practical reason, of thinking about what constitutes the best choice in the context of the good life, Wollstonecraft reminds us that women suffer not because they lacking in reason but because they do not develop the ability to use it. Therefore, the corrupted state of women’s reason should be remedied and this could be achieved through education. This idea, I find a very Aristotelian one since she thinks that moral identity lies in “doing” as correctly expressed by Sandrine Berges. Without “doing” one cannot realise any sense of moral identity. So, it is interesting that we do not hear any complaints and blames put on women by Nussbaum while Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is nearly full of it.
Patrick Fessenbecker (Bilkent) “What do you have to do to get read philosophically? On Wollstonecraft and philosophical readings of the history of philosophy.”