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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Anglais) Broché – 1995

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Chapter I
The Rights and Involved Duties of Mankind Considered

In the present state of society it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground. To clear my way, I must be allowed to ask some plain questions, and the answers will probably appear as unequivocal as the axioms on which reasoning is built; though, when entangled with various motives of action, they are formally contradicted, either by the words or conduct of men.

In what does man’s pre-eminence over the brute creation consist? The answer is as clear as that a half is less than the whole, in Reason.

What acquirement exalts one being above another? Virtue, we spontaneously reply.

For what purpose were the passions implanted? That man by struggling with them might attain a degree of knowledge denied to the brutes, whispers Experience.

Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.

The rights and duties of man thus simplified, it seems almost impertinent to attempt to illustrate truths that appear so incontrovertible; yet such deeply rooted prejudices have clouded reason, and such spurious qualities have assumed the name of virtues, that it is necessary to pursue the course of reason as it has been perplexed and involved in error, by various adventitious circumstances, comparing the simple axiom with casual deviations.

Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they can scarcely trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.

Going back to first principles, vice skulks, with all its native deformity, from close investigation; but a set of shallow reasoners are always exclaiming that these arguments prove too much, and that a measure rotten at the core may be expedient. Thus expediency is continually contrasted with simple principles, till truth is lost in a mist of words, virtue, in forms, and knowledge rendered a sounding nothing, by the specious prejudices that assume its name.

That the society is formed in the wisest manner, whose constitution is founded on the nature of man, strikes, in the abstract, every thinking being so forcibly, that it looks like presumption to endeavour to bring forward proofs; though proof must be brought, or the strong hold of prescription will never be forced by reason; yet to urge prescription as an argument to justify the depriving men (or women) of their natural rights, is one of the absurd sophisms which daily insult common sense.

The civilization of the bulk of the people of Europe is very partial; nay, it may be made a question, whether they have acquired any virtues in exchange for innocence, equivalent to the misery produced by the vices that have been plastered over unsightly ignorance, and the freedom which has been bartered for splendid slavery. The desire of dazzling by riches, the most certain pre-eminence that man can obtain, the pleasure of commanding flattering sycophants, and many other complicated low calculations of doting self-love, have all contributed to overwhelm the mass of mankind, and make liberty a convenient handle for mock patriotism. For whilst rank and titles are held of the utmost importance, before which Genius “must hide its diminished head,” it is, with a few exceptions, very unfortunate for a nation when a man of abilities, without rank or property, pushes himself forward to notice. Alas! what unheard-of misery have thousands suffered to purchase a cardinal’s hat for an intriguing obscure adventurer, who longed to be ranked with princes, or lord it over them by seizing the triple crown! --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"We hear [Mary Wollstonecraft's] voice and trace her influence even now among the living." --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 400 pages
  • Editeur : Tuttle Publishing; Édition : New edition (1995)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0460876155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0460876155
  • Dimensions du produit: 19,7 x 13 x 2,3 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 2.195.792 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed my spirits, and I have sighed when obliged to confess that either Nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial. Lire la première page
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Entre les ouvrages de Poulain de la Barre de la fin du XVIIIe et ceux de John Stuart Mill au XIXe, le livre de Mary Wollstonecraft est indispensable pour penser cette histoire. Sa critique de Rousseau est particulièrement subtile. Dans le siècle qui a connu Emilie du Châtelet, Laura Bassi et Marie Agnesi, parmi beaucoup d'autres femmes scientifiques, Mary Wollstonecraft montre comment la raison peut s'allier à la sensibilité pour un plaidoyer vif contre l'esclavage des femmes.
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0 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Demoulins Stephane le 19 décembre 2010
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
A son époque, il y avait beaucoup de progrès à faire. Mary pensait que l'éducation était la solution aux problèmes...
C'était certainement un passage nécessaire mais on se rend compte que malgré l'éducation, les femmes n'ont pas évoluées et qu'elles n'utilisent toujours pas la raison et qu'elles sont guidées par leurs passions.
Mary avait fait de bonnes observations qui sont toujours valables (comme quoi les humains n'ont toujours pas évolués, surtout les femmes).
Par contre Mary croyait en la vie éternelle et je ne vois pas où se situe l'utilisation de la raison pure dans ces pré-jugements. Il faut dire que cela aurait été peut-être un peu trop choquant pour une femme de son époque.
Elle oublie simplement de dire qu'il y a des hommes très bien et qui sont des modèles et pour l'humanité et pour les femmes !
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Amazon.com: 28 commentaires
41 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
From a man's point of view 26 juin 2006
Par Rehan Dost - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I picked this book up in Boston waiting for my wife to order coffee and was instantly enamoured with the author's prose. At times I wondered if I was reading an essay or poetry.

Regardless, Mary Wollstonecraft summarizes the plight of women very well and the reader ( whether male or female ) gets a palpable sense of it's injustice.

She concludes that since the literate male giants like " Rousseau" bolstered the prevailing thought that men were made to reason and women to feel it is hardly suprising that women were oppressed.

From birth women, in the manor of pets, are trained in refining their "sensibilities" pursuing frivolity in "proper manners and etiquette" and stylish dress to the exclusion of cultural and intellectual development. Her only purpose to marry and become slave to the whim of her man's pleasure . Her drudgery and mindless existence is punctuated only by her childish outbursts. In such a state she is hardly capable of independent living let alone thought and utterly unfit as a mother. This state of affairs not only degrades women but men of reason and society at large since domestic affairs ultimately spill upon the fabric of society.

The baleful consequences of such forced behaviours are a romantic temperment reinforced by reading novels of the day instead of science or history the latter deemed "boring" since the women lack the capacity to understand it. Such women being deprived of intellectual stimulation focus on vanity which further corrupts their soul making them envious, bitter and mean. Any woman who dares to challenge this state of affairs is ostracized almost to the same extent as a woman who has lost her "reputation".

Mary Wollstonecraft writings are rife with social and political commentary which is refreshing. She is particularly critical of the upper class and their perpetuation of oppression.
53 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Have we really progressed? 9 mars 2000
Par Ronald Bingham - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
As I read this book, I find myself comparing the authors examples of the treatment of women by their fathers/husbands with the way women are today treated by the media.
Mary discusses how women are to be kept ignorant of all knowledge and only to be valued for their physical charms (almost every ad on TV/in print). The examples of her contemporaries that she quotes are frighteningly familiar.
Why is this so? Who determines that the education of females is not relevant to society. Sure they are allowed to go to school now, but they are still treated with amazing patronization and condescenscion? The amount of my (intelligent) female friends that insist they are dumb/ignorant/stupid/an idiot is disturbing. Maybe now females are allowed to learn, they should also be allowed self esteem.
I think I got sidetracked. This book is a complex and well written argument for the emancipation and education of women. It is as true today as much as it was 200 years ago. It is, however a slow read as the language is couched in the vocabulary of the late eighteenth century and many of the terms are unfamiliar.
32 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Anthology With Every Angle 21 avril 2003
Par S. Smeltzer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This book has Wollstonecraft's A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN and a through Background, Debate and Criticism section. This book gives one everything needed to understand Wollstonecraft's personality strenghths and weaknesses according to authors from her time; a complete debate on the subject of women's rights from multiple authors (from different time periods); and an intense review by serveral other authors (within the last 25 years) on Wollstonecraft's success/failure. Every article in the book has been published independently of this book. This work also contains several journal articles.
25 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par Saki - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
If you need to read this for a college or high school class, or as part of a women's studies project that you are doing for some other purpose, then I'd like to assure you that it won't be all that painful. You may even enjoy it and wish that you'd found this book sooner, all on your own. I was only assigned to read parts of it, but I finished the book by choice.
It's interesting and well writen. Some of the language and nearly all of the issues that are brought up are inflamatory. In class discussions I compared the book to "Fight Club," and was nearly laughed out of the room, but I am at least partly serious. It does have the edge of a social visionary who wanted to shake things up and blow old fashioned society out of the water. No soap bombs, though, but that's only a technicality.
If you have any choice in the matter I would suggest that you choose this book over stuffier works by less forward thinkers. I swear that reading it won't hurt that badly.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Irony is that MW Did Not See Herself as a Feminist 26 février 2010
Par Martin Asiner - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In both the Preface and the Introduction, Wollstonecraft emphasizes what she sees as the root cause of the failure of men to treat women as equals. Men discourage women from achieving the same education that men routinely are given, and as long as women are denied this education, then they can never hope to achieve social and economic parity with men. In her opening remarks to Talleyrand, she is gently optimistic that her powers of persuasion will be sufficient such that he "will not throw my work aside." Her other comments are couched in similar conciliatory terms: "I call upon you, therefore, now to weigh what I have advanced respecting the rights of women."

It is not only the lack of educational opportunity for women that rouses Wollstonecraft's ire. She connects this lack with a general lack of respect to a morality that has become "an empty name." Men cannot acknowledge morality in women unless they can first acquire it in their own persons. The only way, she notes, for men to do both is for them to permit women to have sufficient access to education that will lead women to acquire virtue. Wollstonecraft suggests that virtue in women cannot occur until men respect them enough for women to feel virtuous. As long as men see women as trophy wives, alluring mistresses, and idolized objects of unneeded Renaissance gallantry, then the oppression of women will continue under a paternalistic hand. Wollstonecraft's annoyance clearly is evident when she considers that men have appointed themselves the gender guardian of what is best for women: "Who made man the exclusive judge if women partake with him the gift of reason?" Throughout history, she continues, tyrants of all stripes have been "eager to crush reason; yet always assert that they usurp its throne only to be useful." Men of Wollstonecraft's day are very much like the tyrants of former eras, and the female victims of the present are no less oppressed than all the victims of the past.

Wollstonecraft roundly condemns men for their own dearth of virtue in that when men see no need to expect virtue in women, then they feel no necessity to show it themselves. The result of this failure to expect or exhibit virtue is their seeking extra-marital affairs, a state she terms a "box of mischief." When men stray in this manner, their wives may follow suit or even neglect their children. All that remains for such women is to seek to obtain by cunning and guile what their men ought to dispense freely.

In the Introduction, Wollstonecraft builds upon the same idea that women are deprived of equality by being denied a proper education. Surprisingly enough, she does not lay the blame squarely on men. Wollstonecraft writes of various faults that women commit that enable men to get away with such heavy-handed actions. She writes as if women are little more than clay figurines to be molded exclusively by men: "The minds of women are enfeebled by false refinement." This "enfeeblement" has its origins in a myriad of sources, all of which women are seemingly unable to resist. She writes of "books of instruction" (written by men of genius) which purport to be models of delicate feminine behavior. It is unclear from context whether "genius" is meant ironically. Even more startlingly, Wollstonecraft admits flat out that in some respects at least, men are biologically superior to women: "In the government of the physical world, it is observable that the female, in general, is inferior to the male. The male pursues, the female yields--this is the law of nature." She adds that "this physical superiority cannot be denied." She does grant that men take unfair advantage of this immutable law of nature by widening what should be merely a biological gap into a sociological chasm: "But not content with this natural pre-eminence, men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for the moment." Women, it follows, cannot help but be "intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them."

The strength and persuasiveness of Wollstonecraft's arguments are diluted by her being unable to detach herself from her thoroughly middle-class status. Those who reside above her on the economic ladder seemingly reside in a universe untouched by matters that relate to those lower on the scale. She, as one of the middle class, is in a "natural state," and thus amenable to the laws of nature and the power of rhetoric. Those who are of the upper class are "weak, artificial beings raised above the common wants and affections of their race, and in a premature unnatural manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society!" Such women are to be pitied since their education "tends to render them vain and helpless." What Wollstonecraft does not acknowledge is that such female vanity and helplessness are not limited to the empty-headed women of the rich. In fact, it is these very traits that she so lamentably bemoans that are so entrenched in the females of her own middle class. Life, for these rich women, is limited to a useless search for amusement in a world bereft of it.

Wollstonecraft further suggests that women are at least partially to blame for their unchivalrous treatment by men. She assumes that given the least amount of gallantry by men that women will immediately assume the fawning traits of docility that so enrage her: "My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone." The favored male tactic to suppress and dominate women is to show untoward gallantry and excessive politeness at all times. Wollstonecraft terms all such patriarchal barbarities as "the soft phrase, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste," all of which inevitably lead to such actions as "almost synonymous with epithets of weakness," From these actions by men, she concludes that "those pretty feminine phrases" do no more than to engender a "weak elegance of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of manners" in women. Thus, in comparing the elegance of gallantry to the endurance of virtue, women may seek the latter but settle for the former.

The language and style of her book have caused future critics to discern a disparity between the clearly stated message and the less clearly phrased rhetoric. On one hand, Wollstonecraft promises that her writing will be the very epitome of simplicity and conciseness, yet on the other the content belies the asserted intent. She writes of her intended simplicity: "I shall disdain to cull my phrases or polish my style--I aim at being useful; and sincerity will render me unaffected; for wishing rather than to persuade by the force of my arguments, than dazzle by the elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in rounding periods, nor in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which coming from the head, never reach the heart." This sounds very much as if she places considerable urgency in keeping matters expressed as clear and unaffected as possible. Flowery diction, then, ought to have no place in her book. However, at the start of her Introduction, she uses a series of botanical metaphors whose elegance is intrusive:

"The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state; for like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived in maturity. One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education."

The issues of apparent inferiority raised in both the Preface and Introduction are revisited in later chapters of Wollstonecraft's book. Each time that she considers why men are permitted to so thoroughly dominate women, she more often than not implies that there is some defect lurking within women that men are quick to expand upon to justify a series of patriarchal actions that are no less than tyrannous despite the ostensible gallantry with which they are couched.
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