Sunday, May 10, 2009

09 Mary Wollstonecraft

It wasn't me who made the list of 100 philosophers, which guided us through our previous project. The book "Philosophy: 100 essential thinkers" by Philip Stokes was my lead and I followed his selction.

In fact I was a little inaccurate by advertizing with 100 philosophers. Stokes was talking about THINKERS, a more liberal term. That is why Mary Wollstonecraft could show up in his list.

She definitely was a thinker, but a philosopher, if you compare her with women like Conway or Van Zuylen. But a thinker she was....a woman who stood in the center of the turmoil and terror of the French Revolution of 1789.

In all what is written about her she is presented either with a severe rationalist face, who believed in the proliferation of knowledge and the reform of educational methodes and the principles of equality and freedom,

or as a passionate woman, adventurous, daring, living in revolutionary Paris, having a passionate love affair with an American writer, but all together she was an "outsider" , a Disssenter.

Dissenter was a general collective term for a number of nonconformist groups in the UK in 1785: Baptists, Presbyterians, Independents, Unitarians and Quakers. Among them she had found a shelter.

They were excluded from universities and public functions by the Test (1673) and Corporation Acts (1661), but nevertheless they brought forth a number of great men: Watt, Wedgwood, Wilkinson, Paine, Price. And Mary Wollstonecroft was the woman in the list.

Let us listen to her own words. Philosophically it is really fascinating.
Start quote:

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.

End quote from "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman"( 1792) written three years after the beginning of the French revolution and her Parisian adventure. And isnt is a wonderful expression of the philosophical convictions of her time:

And absolute belief in reason. The way of thinking.....reason leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to virtue ..and virtue leads to a better world. This was the hope and expectation of Mary and her contemporaries.

However, she got disappointed in the Revolution as she had to observe that at the end, what it was all about was money, trade, merchants. Image the big production plants of the Industrial Revolution, the factories, child labor, mass production. Doesnt this all sound too familiar?

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: this on Mary Wollstonecraft
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: again one of the first real feminists
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: back that far
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes.she was
[13:26] herman Bergson: and an adventerous lady too
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: see how long it has taken to sink in
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: :-0
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: quiet a life
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: quite****
[13:27] herman Bergson: I would say quite a life ^_^
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: yes lol
[13:27] Paula Dix: :)
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: mary shelley?
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: i wonder how much more she would have done if she idid not die so early
[13:28] herman Bergson: That was her daughter Hope
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:28] Paula Dix: wow
[13:28] Ze Novikov: I wonder how much being a Dissenter influenced her thinking...
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes...she died when she was 38
[13:28] herman Bergson: A lot Ze...a lot
[13:28] Ze Novikov: ummm
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: ah i think so
[13:28] herman Bergson: she felt home among that group
[13:29] herman Bergson: tho she wasnt religious
[13:29] herman Bergson: but what attracted her was their rational approach of the bible
[13:29] Ze Novikov: to be a Dissenter took a lot of courage
[13:29] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:30] herman Bergson: yes because the Acts against them were already from 1661 and earlier
[13:30] Ze Novikov: and they had set up their own educational institutions..
[13:30] Ze Novikov: which were open to women
[13:31] herman Bergson: but what struck me was her belief in the ratio, as you can hear in her words
[13:31] herman Bergson: and her later disappointment in the Revolution as she sees how it all boils down to money making, commerce and so on
[13:32] herman Bergson: and there I saw a parallel with our time...
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: ah yes
[13:32] Ze Novikov: is that same dissapointment at the heart of why there are riots in Greece today?
[13:32] herman Bergson: we hold the same ideals..from ratio to knowledge ..from knowledge to virtue...
[13:32] herman Bergson: but virtue seems to be in most cases just a bankaccount
[13:33] Daruma Boa: yes right
[13:34] herman Bergson: Just compare this ideas from 1792 to the crisis we are in now..
[13:34] herman Bergson: same story...same disappointment, I would say
[13:34] Ze Novikov: nods
[13:34] Paula Dix: yes
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: historically speaking the "bank account was always at the basis of human behaviour.. ask ari for survival theories:)
[13:35] herman Bergson: lol
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: one in the same I think
[13:35] herman Bergson: Well Hope..I think that THAT is exactly the fundamental human dilemma
[13:35] herman Bergson: on the one hand virtue....on the other hand a bankaccount
[13:35] Daruma Boa: everything comes back in human history. nothing changes really. i think
[13:36] Ze Novikov: i tend to agree with you Daruma
[13:36] Daruma Boa: its basic.
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: I think you are right Daruma
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Daruma....that is what we could ask ourselves..
[13:36] Daruma Boa: perhaps we have to solve 1st this + can continue then
[13:36] Paula Dix: but dont we live better than before??
[13:37] herman Bergson: is mankind making progress in some sense or are we just repeating ourselves all the time because of our limitations
[13:37] Daruma Boa: we do
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: you said the right word..daruma.. think.. ever since humans started to think,,,
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: lol our lesson for over a year now
[13:37] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:37] Daruma Boa: with cars, more food, we are healthier
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: progress is made but we remain tethered
[13:37] Daruma Boa: we kick back in time
[13:37] Paula Dix: wouldnt it be that we are building the base for growing?
[13:37] Daruma Boa: sometimes
[13:38] herman Bergson: there is a smiling historian among us..maybe she has an answer....^_^
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: growing what paula..
[13:38] Daress Braveheart: 5 steps forward, 4 1/2 back
[13:38] Paula Dix: number of educated people is increasing
[13:38] Ze Novikov: shhhhh
[13:38] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:38] Daruma Boa: it is necessary to be more open minded
[13:38] Daress Braveheart: hopefully not 5 1/2
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: :)) Daress
[13:38] Daruma Boa: thats the prob of humans
[13:38] Paula Dix: we could need some kind of critical mass to make a step ahead
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. we make steps.. but are they steps ahead..
[13:39] Daruma Boa: well a sidestep is also sometimes important
[13:39] herman Bergson: that is a good one Hope..:-)
[13:39] Daruma Boa: not always ahead
[13:39] Paula Dix: yes
[13:39] herman Bergson: and when you talk about steps.....does it imply we know of some direction???
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: that is the struggle between fundamentalists and progressives
[13:40] Paula Dix: lol, thats true herman
[13:40] Daruma Boa: yeah, who knows the direction?
[13:40] Ze Novikov: do we always have to see it as a binary struggle?
[13:40] herman Bergson: Anyway...the words of Wollstonecraft I quoted are wonderfull, in my opinion
[13:41] Ze Novikov: how about two idea in tension
[13:41] Ze Novikov: see*
[13:41] herman Bergson: which means Ze?
[13:41] Ze Novikov: the tension gives rise to changes
[13:42] Ze Novikov: and raises questions
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: this woman would be head of government today i think..
[13:42] herman Bergson: you mean the idea of virtue against the idea of a bankaccount for instance?
[13:42] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:42] Ze Novikov: we really cannot have one without the other
[13:43] herman Bergson: I think that all our news programs are about that at the moment
[13:43] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: those who belief in equality and freedom and those who believe in bonusses
[13:44] Ze Novikov: how do we then not only manage this tension
[13:44] Ze Novikov: but use it creatively
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: I think that just now this is going on in the world
[13:44] Ze Novikov: it is the ISSUE now in the US
[13:45] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:45] herman Bergson: give it a couple of years and you'll have your answer
[13:45] Daruma Boa: perhaps
[13:45] herman Bergson: not only in the US, Ze
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: everywhere
[13:45] Krylancelo Vaughan: Ze: you mean to say that now the situation in the US is a tug of war between virtue and reason and logic, and the ways of capitalist ideals where one aims to get a leg and control over another for the sake of profit?
[13:45] Ze Novikov: ummm
[13:45] herman Bergson: The US was so nice to invite us all to the party..:-)
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: lol yes
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: well
[13:46] Daruma Boa: haha
[13:46] Ze Novikov: in part yes yes
[13:46] Ze Novikov: always has been in US history
[13:46] Paula Dix: lol herman
[13:46] Ze Novikov: it is implied in many of the constitutional issues
[13:47] Krylancelo Vaughan: I'm starting to see a change like that, myself. That people are beginning to reject a lot of the ideas involved with control and power for the sake of personal profit.
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: well i am not sure of that
[13:47] Paula Dix: ecology is a step toward that, i guess
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: take baseball players :-))
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: and salaries
[13:47] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:47] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:48] Ze Novikov: overpaid
[13:48] Paula Dix: what about them??
[13:48] Krylancelo Vaughan: Talking with other college peers my age, there seems to be a big youth movement that isn't happy with the way the social climate has been established, and seek to uproot it.
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: 14 million for 5 years
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: oh i agree
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: the concept of supply and demand will always prevail
[13:48] Paula Dix: ah, ok, same as futebol ones here :)))
[13:48] Krylancelo Vaughan: Those who aren't part of our group seek to attain positions of power over others, whereas the others, or at least a good group of the people I've been around, are more concerned with ethical equality.
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: the young educated have always done that tho
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: for a while
[13:49] Ze Novikov: well that will be difficult in the US as we have no significant history of social revolution such as in other countires
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: oh, but we do Ze, it just was suppressd witout mercy
[13:49] Ze Novikov: we tend to work things out legislatively or via the legal system
[13:49] herman Bergson: and this discussion is started by a lady fron 1792...and the ideas of her time
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: well
[13:50] Paula Dix: :))
[13:50] Ze Novikov: no i disagree Ari
[[13:50] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: the war between the states was on the the bloodiest known
[13:50] Krylancelo Vaughan: I have a question for our assembled group, once this current point is finished. :3
[13:50] herman Bergson: The most intersting thing here is that we still have the same ideas as 300 years ago about humanity
[13:50] Ze Novikov: ahh well then we do think alike i was just going to bring that up
[13:51] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:51] Paula Dix: yes herman thats most interesting, we struggle to go there
[13:51] Krylancelo Vaughan: Herman: What is that same idea as 300 years ago about humanity
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: we do seem to just whitewash those ideas to make them appear different, Herman
[13:52] herman Bergson: the idea about what is a man...what makes society....from reason to knowledge to virtue
[13:52] Paula Dix: the way people live now in usa and europe would be seen as socialism by old capitalist barons??
[13:52] Krylancelo Vaughan: Then you would say there is a general consensus that what makes a man is... values based on reason and virtue?
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: rod-you are 8 minutes early :)
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: Hi Hope
[13:53] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:53] Daruma Boa: hi rod and felix
[13:53] Daruma Boa: felix
[13:53] herman Bergson: That Kryl is the European way of thinking only
[13:53] Rodney Handrick: Hi Dar
[13:53] FelixSr Bloch: my aplogies herman, and class - got tied up in rl
[13:53] herman Bergson: not bad thinking but based on our culture
[13:53] Rodney Handrick: same here Herman
[13:53] Krylancelo Vaughan: Call me a foreigner then, I reside on US soil.
[13:53] herman Bergson: Welcome you two
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: nobody is pergfect kryl lol
[13:54] Krylancelo Vaughan: No, and I don't expect perfection from others. That's not the point of my query.
[13:54] Krylancelo Vaughan: And my queries are never hostile, just to say, I always aim to collect information and reasoning.
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ni...and I think that the big challenge for the future is how this way of thinking will hold against the rest of the world....almost a question like ..were we right
[13:55] Krylancelo Vaughan: Define for me, since I'm a little loose-brained tonight, what the train of thought is that the world generally follows, now?
[13:55] herman Bergson: were the ideals of the French Revolution THE ideals that would lead to a human society...?
[13:56] herman Bergson: do they apply to all mankind?
[13:56] Paula Dix: herman these ideals are spreading around, arent? With europe and then USA domination?
[13:56] herman Bergson: Yes Paula they are our favorite export product
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: the question is not do they -- but can they..
[13:57] herman Bergson: very tricky observation, Hope...very tricky
[13:57] Paula Dix: we see here they getting stronger... i can be wrong, of course, but the improvement here is huge on last 30 years
[13:58] herman Bergson: I dont want to continue on the implications of your remark, Hope
[13:58] Krylancelo Vaughan: the 1970s hippie revolution was a big shock to the system, wasn't it? They based a lot of their virtue on the reasoning of humanity. the focus that life is important and precious, in a sense.
[13:59] Paula Dix: yes, isnt this related to the green thing now??
[13:59] Krylancelo Vaughan: I've seen similarities
[13:59] herman Bergson: Well.then you have to evaluate what is left of the hippie revolution in society..what ditd it bring eventually
[13:59] FelixSr Bloch: the hippie revolution was a middle class rebellion against their parents
[13:59] Ze Novikov: yes i agree Felix
[13:59] Paula Dix: yes and we are their children now :)
[13:59] herman Bergson: ok Felix...and what wa sthe conclusion?
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: paula.. you a hippie's daughter?
[14:00] Rodney Handrick: their children
[14:00] Daruma Boa: lol
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: flower in your hair?
[14:00] Paula Dix: greens then are hippies children?
[14:00] Daruma Boa: peace
[14:00] Paula Dix: well, not directly, we didnt had a proper hippie thing here, but my parents liked the idea
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: love,daruma? smile
[14:01] Daruma Boa: LOL
[14:01] Daress Braveheart: have
[14:01] Daress Braveheart: sry
[14:01] Rodney Handrick: those hippies are now grandparents
[14:01] FelixSr Bloch: tentative conclusion - every generation will produce offspring that will rebel against it - the form of rebellion will depend on the context at the time
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: you situate yourself in between rod?
[14:02] FelixSr Bloch: influenced by the technology at hand
[14:02] herman Bergson: I think there is one special thing in this moment here in our class
[14:02] Rodney Handrick: yes I do Hope
[14:02] herman Bergson: we are al lpeople from all over the world and we are able to discuss this with eachother as there are hundreds of chatrooms were people discuss the same issues
[14:03] Rodney Handrick: What's that Herman?
[14:03] Paula Dix: yes herman, this is a huge difference
[14:03] herman Bergson: maybe that will help to spread the ideals of the french revolution
[14:03] Daruma Boa: yes, the internet will change the world muchmore
[14:04] Daruma Boa: we have so much possibilities
[14:04] herman Bergson: isnt this why some governments block the internet for this in their country
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: daruma.. information can klead to indoctrination..
[14:04] Rodney Handrick: who of us may be from another would be
[14:04] Paula Dix: yes, we have to break these blocks
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: just as in the old days..
[14:05] FelixSr Bloch: Yes
[14:05] FelixSr Bloch: herman - - old trick - control the media helps to control the population
[14:05] herman Bergson: oh my..Rodney..did I expose myself???
[14:05] Paula Dix: lol
[14:05] Rodney Handrick: HA HA HA HA HA
[14:05] hope63 Shepherd: and the finacial crisis.. the base is information.. with indoctrination as to where you get a max profit..
[14:05] Krylancelo Vaughan: Anyone here, tell me if you watch mainstream television newscasts or programming often?
[14:05] FelixSr Bloch: not so much anymore
[14:05] Paula Dix: yes here, but a lot more also
[14:05] Daruma Boa: well it all depends on the human being what he makes with the chances that we have
[14:06] Rodney Handrick: I do watch...with a weary eye...
[14:06] Daruma Boa: no time for tv
[14:06] Daruma Boa: i must live here^^
[14:06] Paula Dix: :))
[14:06] Krylancelo Vaughan: I watch on occasion, mainly through youtube videos documenting the daily reports and other news websites.
[14:06] FelixSr Bloch: why the question?
[14:06] Krylancelo Vaughan: But then I check blogs and other areas around the internet to find conflicting reports.
[14:06] Daruma Boa: yes on the internet the news and papers
[14:07] herman Bergson: friends.....
[14:07] Krylancelo Vaughan: Because I've noticed a trend in those that think freely, such as we, and those who let themselves remain in the states they are.
[14:07] Paula Dix: exact, we see some news programs... lots of conflicts between them
[14:07] Rodney Handrick: There is a real battle here in the US for control of the airwaves
[14:07] Krylancelo Vaughan: And a lot of it, as I've seen, has to do with television viewing.
[14:07] Daruma Boa: correct
[14:07] Daruma Boa: we had a good movie in geramy about that
[14:07] Paula Dix: and internet i guess, Kryl
[14:08] Krylancelo Vaughan: Not so much internet. It's more just an ability to sit down and think rationally and logically about something.
[14:08] herman Bergson: We started with a Lady from 1785....and she brings us to discuss our world using the ideals of her time...
[14:08] Paula Dix: digg is very interesting for news
[14:08] Daruma Boa: some are not able to select the "right" information
[14:08] Krylancelo Vaughan: And when I do that and then I watch the news reports and see the organized groups on television, my ideas conflict with theirs.. it's.. interesting what irrational people show up on tv.
[14:08] Daruma Boa: so the question, wahtv is the right information?
[14:08] herman Bergson: A nice moment to finish the discussion and to dismiss the class
[1[14:09] herman Bergson: Thank you for this brilliant debate and your participation
[14:09] hope63 Shepherd: ok.. -
[14:09] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-12-14 20:49:52

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