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Vincent Guillin, Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill on Sexual Equality : Historical, Methodological and Philosophical Issues

Date de mise en ligne : [17-12-2009]

Amsterdam : Brill (Studies in the History of Political Thought), 368 p., 99 euros. ISBN 978 90 04 17469

Abstract :

Vincent Guillin uses the issue of sexual equality as a prism
through which to examine important differences – epistemological,
methodological and theoretical – between Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill. He succeeds in showing how their differing conceptions of science and human nature influence and affect their respective approaches to
philosophy and to the analysis of female (in)equality in particular.
Guillin shines a bright searchlight into long-neglected aspects of both
men’s thinking – for example, Mill’s proposal to construct an
‘ethology’, or science of character-formation, and Comte’s seemingly
bizarre interest in phrenology – and the ways in which these shaped
their views of women’s intellectual and political capacities. Guillin’s
wide-ranging study examines both men’s major and minor works, their
correspondence with one another, and the reasons for the final
acrimonious break between two of the nineteenth century’s most original
and important thinkers.

Table of contents :

1. Comte and Mill on Sexual Equality : Context and Problems
2. The Female Brain and the Subjection of Women : Biology, Phrenology and
Sexual Equality
3. The Phrenological Controversy
4. The Explanation of Moral Phenomena : Comte and Mill on the
Architectonics of the Moral Sciences
5. A Never Ending Subjection ? Comte, Mill, and the Sociological Argument
against Sexual Equality
6. The Ethological Fiasco : The Methodological Shortcomings of the
Millian Science of the Formation of Character
7. How To Discover One’s Nature : Mill’s Argument for Emancipation in the
Subjection of Women
Appendix : Comtean Studies, 1993-2000

About the author :

Vincent Guillin is currently Assistant Professor at the Collège de
France in Paris, for the Chair of the Philosophy of Life Science. After
graduating from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, he completed a
Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science at the London School of
Economics in 2006. He is working at the intersection of philosophy of
science, political philosophy and history of science, especially on the
various ways scientific theories have informed and are informing
projects of social reforms and public policies. He is also interested in
the early reception of John Stuart Mill’s writings and ideas in France.
Most recently, he has co-edited, together with Anne Fagot-Largeault,
Frédéric Worms and Arnauld François, a special issue of /Annales
Bergsoniennes/ (Paris, PUF, 2008) on Henri Bergson’s /Evolution creatrice/.


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