English

2017 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

 

Moral Reflections on the French Revolution:
A Study of Wollstonecraft’s Political Thought

Tsai-Yeh Wang

Department of History, Fu Jen Catholic University.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was a leading British radical thinker in the eighteenth century. Compared with scholarly attention to gender and feminism in Wollstonecraft’s works, her moral and political philosophy after 1792 has received rather little attention. This article focuses on Wollstonecraft’s political thinking. The first section explores Wollstonecraft’s ideas of virtue, republicanism, and liberty based on Unitarianism, and how her ideas changed during the French Revolution. The second section discusses how Wollstonecraft approached the problems and conflicts that occurred or would occur during the fulfillment of a political action. She explained why the Enlightenment ideals turned into political terror, and the future possibility of the Revolution based on her idea of virtue against self-interest and narrow patriotism. The third section points out how Wollstonecraft demonstrated the skepticism of the late eighteenth century. Once she no longer supported radical revolution, she suggested that it was more effective to carry out progressive reforms that were suited to each nation. Her moral and political philosophy, as well as her personal experience during the 1790s, therefore, contributed to the political thinking of the British rational dissenters of this period and offered a response to the problems of the revolutionary age.

 

Keywords:Mary Wollstonecraft, French Revolution, rational dissent, virtue, patriotism