Monday, March 26, 2012

Podcast: Rousseau, Macaulay and Wollstonecraft on Negative Education

Last Monday we looked at the first podcast from last month's philosophers' confab on Mary Wollstonecraft. That was Enlightenment Thinker by Karen O'Brien. This week it is the turn of Martina Reuter of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, Finland, speaking on Rousseau, Macaulay and Wollstonecraft on Negative Education.
In her Letters on Education, Catherine Macaulay adapts J.-J. Rousseau’s notion of negative education, emphasizing that the primary task of education is to protect children from harmful impressions. There is a certain tension in Macaulay’s use of the notion. Her belief in the active power of reason is much stronger than Rousseau’s and she does not seem to realize that Rousseau introduced the notion of negative education as an explicit critique of John Locke’s theory of education. In my presentation I will first examine Macaulay’s adaption of negative education and then, in the second part of the paper, I will argue that Mary Wollstonecraft seems to be less influenced by the idea of negative education than Macaulay. I suggest that Wollstonecraft’s slightly lesser worry about harmful impressions does not primarily follow from her belief in reason, which she shares with Macaulay, but rather from her conception of the imagination. According to Wollstonecraft’s notion of creative imagination, the imagination is not merely passively inflamed by impressions, but also able to create impressions and combine reason with passion.

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