If you want to get it right, pay attention to the women!

Eric Schliesser’s review of Jonathan Israel, Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790, is a good example of how focussing on women’s works helps get a better understanding of the history of philosophy:

Smith is here not defending tradition, but rather calling attention to the role of philosophy in providing justification for the status quo even when the actual doctrines it supplies have limited empirical adequacy. In larger context Smith is explaining how the corruption of our sentiments generates great social injustice and simultaneously a surprising element of stability to most established governments. This is not a defense of tradition “or veneration of rank” (237), but careful social analysis combined with considerable moral “indignation” (238)—no need to look at Smith’s unpublished writings it’s right on the page, as discerned by Mary Wollstonecraft and Sophie De Grouchy (both fall partially outside the chronological scope of the book, although Wollstonecraft is mentioned a few times—Israel is not especially attentive to women’s voices in the period).

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