December 3, 2015

Alan Coffee On Mary Wollstonecraft's Concept of Virtue

Alan M. S. J. Coffee, King's College London, The Dickson Poon School of Law, is publishing Mary Wollstonecraft, Public Reason and the Virtuous Republic in The Social and Political Thought of Mary Wollstonecraft (Sandrine Bergès and Alan Coffee (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Here is the abstract.
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, we might say, is ‘virtue’ itself. In a virtuous republic all citizens, from no matter 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.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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