Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill on Sexual Equality: by Vincent Guillin

By Vincent Guillin

Vincent Guillin makes use of the problem of sexual equality as a prism during which to check vital changes - epistemological, methodological and theoretical - among Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill. He succeeds in displaying how their differing conceptions of technological know-how and human nature impression and impact their respective ways to philosophy and to the research of woman (in)equality specifically. Guillin shines a vivid searchlight into long-neglected points of either men's considering - for instance, Mill's thought to build an 'ethology', or technological know-how of character-formation, and Comte's likely extraordinary curiosity in phrenology - and the ways that those formed their perspectives of women's highbrow and political capacities. Guillin's wide-ranging research examines either men's significant and minor works, their correspondence with each other, and the explanations for the ultimate acrimonious holiday among of the 19th century's most unusual and demanding thinkers.

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Additional resources for Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill on Sexual Equality: Historical Methodological and Philosophical Issues (Studies in the History of Political Thought)

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Auguste C omte’s “Examen d u tra ité de B roussais sur l ’Irritation” was fi rst published in the Journal de Paris, 1828, in the issues dated August 4th and August 11th. All references to this text are taken from Auguste Comte, Early Political Writings, pp. 228– 40 (the quotation is taken from p. 233). 39 For Comte’s as one of sociology’s forefathers, see for instance J. Heilbron, The Rise of Social Theor y. For Heilbron, Comte’s distinctive conception of sociology matters “not because C omte’s s ociological insight were of suc h great signifi cance, but b ecause he introduced a ne w theoretical orientation.

The last point of historical and philosophical interest I will review is that of the evolution of Mill’s feminism. For what Mill took, at the time of the System and the correspondence with Comte, to be the key to help resolve the diffic ult question of sexual equality, namely his pet project of ethology, never got off the ground. Given the centrality of ethology in Mill’s case for women’s emancipation and the role he as cribed to it in his a rchitectonic o f t he “moral s ciences,” i t wi ll p rove in teresting to inq uire in to the r easons o f such a da maging in tellectual fa ilure.

For want of space, the historical account of marriage proposed by Mill cannot be assessed here. , p. 40). For, p rior t o the in stitution o f ma rriage as a n indiss oluble tie , the la w o f the strongest applied to marital matters, enabling men to take whatever woman they could, but also to repudiate her as soon as she did not fulfil their expectations. Because it was based on pure physical strength, the relation was by essence asymmetric. With the institution of an i rrevocable vow, wome n c ould at least, and despite the fact that they were still chosen by men, secure a m inimum of permanency for their situation and subsistence: they could not be repudiated by a pure act of whim.

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