Article ID: CBB767524470

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft on the Imagination (2017)


The article compares Rousseau’s and Wollstonecraft’s views on the imagination. It is argued that though Wollstonecraft was evidently influenced by Rousseau, there are significant differences between their views. These differences are grounded in their different views on the faculty of reason and its relation to the passions. Whereas Rousseau characterizes reason as a derivative faculty, grounded in the more primary faculty of perfectibility, Wollstonecraft perceives reason as the faculty defining human nature. It is argued that contrary to what is often assumed, Wollstonecraft’s conception of the imagination is not primarily characterized by its Romantic features, but rather by the close affinity she posits between reason and the imagination. This close affinity has several consequences. One consequence is that she is less worried than Rousseau about the imagination wandering without external constrains, because she believes in reason’s ability to guide the imagination by choosing its objects. Ultimately the difference between Rousseau’s and Wollstonecraft’s views on the imagination helps us understand why she was a passionate philosopher of the Enlightenment while he was one of its first, perceptive and most articulate critics.

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Authors & Contributors
Hormigón Blánquez, Mariano
Hormigón, Mariano
Steigerwald, Joan
Cambi, Franco
Klemme, Heiner F.
Martín, Dolores
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
History of European Ideas
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
British Journal for the History of Science
Éditions du Cerf
Pennsylvania State University Press
University Park
University of Toronto
Philosophy of mind
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
Kant, Immanuel
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb
Reid, Thomas
Hume, David
Buchdahl, Gerd
18th century
19th century
17th century

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