Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Political Theory Research Group Seminar: Individuality, Feminism and 'the hurtful agencies of nature'.

17 March 2011 | 4:00pm - 6:00pm | Seminar

9.11 Social Sciences Building

This paper argues that J.S. Mill’s hugely influential arguments for both the value of individuality and the importance of women’s equality are, in effect, restricted by his view of nature. Much light has already been shed on the limits of individuality in Mill’s work in terms of whose individuality is to be valued and in particular many questions have been raised in respect of Mill’s views on women. However, it will be argued that in order to understand Mill’s reluctance to broaden the scope of human freedom it is necessary to consider those upon whom Mill would place restrictions (many women and the poor) and why these groups should cause the liberty-loving Mill such anxiety. In this paper, the reason offered for this anxiety is that Mill saw these groups not as people with intellectual potential but as people unable to rise above their embodiment. It will be argued, using the work of Christine Di Stefano, that Mill equated bodies with nature and nature with decay. However, in addition to this claim, it will also be argued that what Mill feared in nature was not only that it represented death and decay but also that nature was wild and therefore unpredictable and impossible to control. Mill’s work reflects a spectrum of attitudes to nature from admiration to fear but it will be argued that, ultimately, fear of nature’s wildness dominates Mill’s attitude to nature and informs his attitude to bodies, women’s bodies in particular, which in turn leads him to place restrictions on the liberty of a number of individuals.

Ros Hague is a Teaching Fellow in the School of politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. She teaches political theory and American government. She is also a fellow of CONCEPT, the Nottingham Centre for Normative Political Theory. Her research interests cover the areas of the history of political thought, contemporary political theory and feminist political theory. Her book: Autonomy and Identity: The Politics of Who We Are (Routledge March, 2011) seeks to draw links between the concepts of autonomy and identity in order to develop a new understanding which sees autonomy as a process by which we change and develop our identity.

Location Details

9.11 Social Sciences Building

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