chapter  5
Acting Morally
Pages 16

It is crucial to Wollstonecra ’s moral theory that morality as a standard of rightness is derived from nature , and is knowable through reason . She takes this so much for granted that she hardly argues for it. e principles of morality are a matter of eternal, universal truth with a foundation in nature, and they are necessarily the same for all. She alludes to (and needs) this unshakeable nature of morality in order to highlight the subversive inconsistency in calling women good while keeping them ignorant of moral duties, and in holding them to duties at all while denying them rights. Principles of morality are natural and prior in that sense to any practical concern. Wollstonecra famously insists that ‘there can be but one rule of right, if morality has an eternal foundation’ and that there is no ‘sex to morals’,1 but she still, importantly, regards the political situation of persons as prior to moral agency. Attending to the relation between the political circumstances of women (and other persons who live lives of dependence and subordination ) and the moral principles to which they are duty -bound by nature is necessary for understanding Wollstonecra ’s politics . e importance of claiming rights for women was for her not merely so that they could become self -maintaining citizens but, more fundamentally, so that they could be moral agents in full. Political exclusion is, ipso facto, moral exclusion. In this and the following chapter I will discuss various aspects of the interplay between political and moral situation, between acting politically and acting morally.