Jefferson, Madison, and Wollstonecraft Study Questions (discussed in class)

Discussion Questions Regarding A Vindication of the Rights of Womanand Pride and Prejudice:

  1. Describe the gender double-standard explained by Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. According to Wollstonecraft, what is the major fallacy that propagates the subjugation of women? How were men and women commonly felt to differ? In what ways does Wollstonecraft believe men and women actually DO differ? In what ways are they equally-suited to the various tasks and obligations of life?
  2. How does Wollstonecraft feel that the middle and upper class young women of her society have been miseducated? What appears to be the main purpose of their education? What are young women expected to achieve in life? To look for in a mate? How does their preparation differ from young men's? What are the consequences of these differences?
  3. In what ways does Wollstonecraft believe that her society has miseducated young men? How are 18th century western men's expectations of women, according to Wollstonecraft, harmful to both sexes?
  4. How does Austen's Pride and Prejudice bear out some of Wollstonecraft's premises regarding marriage, male expectations, and women's preparation for adult life? How might Mary Wollstonecraft view Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's marriage?
  5. According to Wollstonecraft, what roles should women ideally play in society? How should men and women be expected to treat each other? Does she advocate for strict equality between the sexes in all ways? Why or why not?
  6. How do Wollstonecraft's visions of individual personhood compare to Epicurus', Hobbes', Locke's, and Jefferson's?

Discussion Questions Regarding Declaration of Independence and Federalist 10 and 51:

  1. What does the Declaration of Independence have in common with John Locke's Second Treatise of Government? Which ideas did Jefferson seem to borrow? What's new and different? Do you discern any meaningful difference between the "life, liberty, and property" of Locke and the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" mentioned by Jefferson? How do the latter represent what is new and different in American civic culture versus the European governmental traditions of the time?
  2. In Federalist 10 & 51, James Madison discusses factions and their roles in American society. What are factions? How do/can they affect American democracy?
  3. Does James Madison feel that factions can be eradicated? Why or why not? In what ways does Madison propose that factionalism's negative effects be neutralized?
  4. According to Madison, what seems to be the key to balancing individual liberty with the majoritarian requirements of democracy?
  5. How do Jefferson's and Madison's views of governance compare to Hobbes', Locke's, Machiavelli's, and even Plato's visions of ideal statecraft?