Adam, Emily and Lizzie, Wollstonecraft, 2/3/2014

1. What is the nature of the argument?

- or more loosely, how is the author trying to make his/her case?    

Uses observation and divinity to support claims.

- what is the rhetorical form of the argument? i.e., does it make appeal to authorities, to history, to logic, to the reader's introspection ....?  

The author appeals to observation (50-77) and natural providence (10,21-22,55,57) to make her claims

- is the argument inductive or deductive, does it generalize from the specific, or begin with an over-arching theory and proceed to interpret specifics?      

Deductive. Begins with over-arching idea and then uses specific observations to solidify her claims.

- to whom is the writing addressed? or for whom is it intended?  

Middle class women, for they are in the most natural state of subjectivity (11). Also entire population of men.

2. Who/What is the argument against?

- identify the targets, other authors or systems of thought that this author is bent on challenging.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Dr. Gregory

3. What is the argument?

- or more loosely, what is the author trying to do? persuade the reader of?      

Women possess the same natural capabilities as men (14,55,57). Men, however, have tyrannically conditioned women by withholding education (7,10,54-55,57). Because men have withheld education, women bow to the authority of men, not reason (55) for women in their subjugated state, have not been privileged to reason (ignorance is a frail base for virtue (67)) (66). If the progress of mankind (humankind) is to continue, women must be educated in the same fashion as their male counterparts (4). Wollstonecraft is especially concerned with autonomy of women, as long as women are confined in cages (60), they cannot attain useful intellect that allows for sovereignty of the mind (66). (68)(73)  

- does the author clearly state his/her intention? if so, what is it?   

To allow women the opportunities to educate themselves so that they may become autonomous.

- be sure to pay attention to what the author is saying concerning our three focal points:

           i. human nature: what theory is developed, what assumptions are made?   

Human nature stems from God (17). No evil exists that god did not design (17).  

           ii. ethics: how does ethics figure in the argument?  is the author engaging in moral   

condemnation or moral prescription, if so, on the basis of what sort of ethical theory?

Women acquire manners before morals. (27)

           iii. politics: what is politics according to the author?  what should the purposes of politics be?    

Did not specify.  

-   does the author employ or develop any specific concepts that deserve attention?


-    for the rights of woman...if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice” (4).

- if women are not to be educated equally with men, the progress of knowledge and truth in a society is diminished, because not only are women half of the populace, they also play an important role as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters (29).

-women deserve the opportunity to attain virtue through education and the exercise of reason.


3a. What does the author regard as the distinctive problems and possibilities in the Modern Age

- on what are they focusing?

Society will stop progressing if half the population cannot use reason. Women must be educated to push society forward.

Wollstonecraft explains the danger of those in power (men) not following the will of God. “nature, or, to speak with strict propriety, God, has made all things right; but man has sought him out many inventions to mar the work” (29).

Wollstonecraft is craftily suggesting that the subjugation of women is not the will of God, but the result of males developing methods, such as prostitution and gambling, to tarnish the condition in which men and women are held equal in their pursuit of virtue. These male inventions prohibit women from developing a close relationship with God.

3b. How does the author address liberty, equality, and fraternity?

- how does the author define, conceptualize, and operationalize each concept?   

Liberty- Freedom to education and freedom to autonomy of personhood.

Equality- Wollstonecraft believes that men and women have the same simple direction, but have innate differences (26). Wants equity in opportunity, but not in social status, not trying to acquire masculine qualities, but wants women to attain humanistic capacities.  

- how does the author prioritize them.

Wollstonecraft values liberty and equality (in regard to education) highly, while fraternity is seldom mentioned.


4. what are the strengths of the author's argument?

- does the author succeed in challenging his/her targets?

- any insights, valuable distinctions?

- good use of evidence?

- are you persuaded?

-for to love God as the fountain of wisdom, goodness, and power, appears to be the only worship useful to a being who wishes to acquire either virtue or knowledge” (61).

--This provides a standard that Christians, male and female, have to follow.


5. what are the weaknesses of the author's argument?

- what, if anything, has the author unduly neglected or missed?

- anything implausible, illogical, unargued?

- does the author fail to challenge significantly his/her targets?

- why are you not persuaded? where did the author lose you?   

Makes large gender based assumptions with little basis (54).    

Frequently misquotes when responding to others work. (56- Note 7) (62-Note 3)