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The Social and Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft$
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Sandrine Bergès and Alan M. S. J. Coffee

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766841

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766841.001.0001

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Mary Wollstonecraft, Public Reason, and the Virtuous Republic

Mary Wollstonecraft, Public Reason, and the Virtuous Republic

(p.183) 10 Mary Wollstonecraft, Public Reason, and the Virtuous Republic
The Social and Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft

Alan Coffee

Oxford University Press

Although ‘virtue’ is a complex idea in Wollstonecraft’s work, one of its senses refers to the capacity and willingness to govern one’s own conduct rationally, and to employ this ability in deliberating about matters of public concern. Wollstonecraft understands virtue to be integral to the meaning of freedom rather than as merely instrumentally useful for its preservation. It follows, therefore, that a free republic must be a virtuous one. The first virtue of social institutions, is ‘virtue’ itself. In a virtuous republic all citizens, no matter from which social group, are able to represent themselves in law and in public debate. This is a demanding condition, requiring not just suitably robust republican institutions but an open and accommodating public culture in which sufficient numbers of citizens are positively engaged in ensuring that the available stock of background ideas and values is representative, diverse, and inclusive.

Keywords:   Wollstonecraft, republicanism, non-domination, independence, virtue, public reason, multiculturalism

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