Until recently, however, these intellectual figures have been mainly presented as the supporting cast of their male counterparts: as salon hostesses, correspondents or companions. Today the importance and originality of their contribution are finally in the process of being recognised, leading to the publication of works that have been for a long time unavailable to modern readers. It is in this spirit that the editors Sandrine Bergès and Eric Schliesser present, in the series Oxford New Histories of Philosophy, the English version of the Letters on Sympathy by Sophie de Grouchy, originally published in 1798 as an addition to her French translation of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments.
Wollstonecraft scholars will almost certainly find this text now among the critical texts with which one ought to engage when writing on Wollstonecraft. However, this text should also appeal to historians of philosophy interested in the philosophical moves made throughout modernity and between antiquity and modernity. Contemporary philosophers with interests in social and political philosophy, feminist philosophy, or ethics will find much as well. Taken altogether, The Social and Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft not only shows many new paths taken in Wollstonecraft scholarship, but also invites scholars to pursue further research by providing new opportunities for dialogue with her text.
These essays are best read as examples, often admirable, of what happens when philosophers read Wollstonecraft. They offer insights into intellectual influence, from Plato and Aristotle to Spinoza and beyond, and map Wollstonecraft's place in traditions of thought, paying particular and detailed attention, in line with current trends in the field, to varieties of republicanism. Here the reader will find essays that offer a deeper understanding of Wollstonecraft's thinking on several of her most important terms (among them: reason, passion, independence, rights, duty).
Particularly in the closing contributions of the editors, but also in the general framework of the book, the philosophy of Wollstonecraft is presented in the context of current discussions, from a feminist as well as from a general political perspective. The collection abandons the schemata of fruitless one-dimensional interpretations that position Wollstonecraft as either a proto-feminist or a rationalist misogynist. Her feminist ideas are embedded in a broader reflection that begins by retracing her sources back to the classics, and follows by positioning her thoughts with the republican ideas of natural laws, pointing to the relevance of her ideas in identifying questions about particular rights and duties in a socially and politically diverse society.
A Feminist Perspective on Virtue Ethics” includes much that should prompt further discussion. In particular, the book will be of interest to those who want to correct for existing gaps in their knowledge of the historical development of virtue ethics, in addition to being a solid starting point for those interested in finding out more about the specific theorists discussed in the earlier chapters.