1 On page 164 of our text, Wollstonecraft wrote that
There are some loopholes out of which a man may creep, and care to think and act for himself; but for a woman it is an herculean task, because she has difficulties peculiar to her sex to overcome, which require almost superhuman powers.
Do you think there is a sense ( reflected perhaps in bitter remarks that middle-class women who wish to succeed in professional life must be virtual 'superwomen' ) in which this may remain true, in our immensely priviledged North American social order?
Consider, for example, a persistent pattern, which seems to hold in almost all the so-called 'western democracies'; that mean women's incomes hover beneath a 'glass ceiling' of about 70% those of men, even for essentially the same work.
Are there any ethically relevant arguments or observations in the Vindication or the Subjection that might 'explain' such obdurate patterns?
Might one also invoke here a more cynical variant of the philosopher David Hume's belief in a universal 'moral sentiment' -- an amoral one, in this case, if it makes us accept, almost unconsciously, a market-dictated social control over the ( rate of ) diffusion of women into the ( nondomestic ) workplace?
If this comparison were apt, what do you think its ethical implications would be? Are there other, comparable forms of such 'social control' that may rule our lives, though we are barely conscious of them?
2 In class, I remarked on a mild tension in North American feminism which has focused in the last few years on the role of women's schools and colleges ( which have a long and distinguished tradition at institutions like Bryn Mawr in the U. S. ).
During the last few years, for example, feminists in the U. S. have
2.1 sued to open the last hide bound provincial military institutions in the southern U. S. to women ( I confess to an impulse to leave them to the more authoritarian males who may want to attend such places ); and
2.2 lobbied to block the opening of the few remaining women's college to men, arguing ( correctly, I think ) that these colleges have enable young scientists who happen to be women ( for example ) to develop their talents in an atmosphere free of debilitating social and other pressures -- pressures that are, in fact, emitted ( if that's the right word ) by hyper-competitive and overbearing male teachers and fellow students.
Whatever your view of the matter, what arguments from Wollstonecraft, Mill and Taylor and other ethicians and theorists we have read -- can you draw on to evaluation this tension?
Can you see some arguments which have force against the view you ultimately believe should be upheld? ( What, for example, is the role of 'paternalism' here -- or perhaps 'maternalism'? Might it cut both ways? )
3 On 26 and 27 of our text, Mill and Taylor asserted that
it may be confidently said that thorough knowledge of one another hardly ever exists, but between persons who, besides being intimate, are equals. . . .
. . . the question rests with women themselves -- to be decided by their own experience, and by the use of their own faculties. There are no means of finding what either one person or another can do, but by trying -- and no means by which anyone else can discover for them what it is for their happiness to do or leave undone.
Is the first remark an epistemological assertion, an ethical one, or both? Is the second, similarly, a relatively straightforward empirical assertion, an expression of the human need for ( something like ) what Aristotle called theoria, or Virginia Woolf called "a room of one's own", or all of these at once?
4 More widely, Wollstonecraft seems ( to me at least ) to appeal in several of her strongest arguments to an ideal of human autonomy and liberation, as well as to the ( unquestioned ) eudaimonic consequence of egalitarian education for all children of both sexes. Mill and Taylor invoke egalitarian ideals in equally impassioned terms, though their explicit brief is for more concrete and utilitarian forms of social peace.
In the Critique of Pure Reason ( B 75 ), Immanuel Kant once remarked that "thoughts without contents are empty, ( and ) ( sensory ) intuitions without concepts are blind."
Might one argue equally well that counterfactual 'maxims' and 'imperatives' without (empirical ) contents are "empty," and utilitarian calculations without regulative 'ideals' are "blind"?
If so, are our collective efforts toward 'progress' really attempts to make our 'ideals' more concrete, and our 'calculations' more thoughtful and empathetic?