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Title: Madame de Staël and the theory of progress : Scottish social theory in France
Author: Zemek, Margaret Theodora
ISNI:       0000 0001 3577 002X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1985
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The works of Mme de Staël have never been seriously considered from a philosophical point of view; they have never been treated as an integrated system with a sense of theoretical continuity and historical purpose. Though in recent years her political disposition and engagement have attracted fresh interest, the relationship between her policies, her analysis of French and English constitutional history and her moral and social philosophy remains obscure. Yet with Mme de Staël,both history and ethics were subtly combined to complement a political programme. History and philosophy were for her the ammunition in an intensely personal political battle for a regular form of constitutional government in keeping with France's cultural heritage. The present study considers the works of Mme de Staël as forming a cohesive and integrated system. It concentrates on one particular aspect of her thought - her theory of perfectibility- a theme which runs throughout her works. Her conception of progress, perhaps the most unique and least well understood od her doctrines, breaks with the tradition as developed in France by Turgot and Condorcet. Mme de Staël appears to have dramn heavily on the theories of human evolution outlined and developed in Scotland by Adam Smith, John Millar and Adam Ferguson. Her system of ethics, which underpins her unusual concept of perfectibility, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Theory of Moral Sentiments, a work which Mme de Staël is known to have read and admired, Mme de Staël's theory of progress, based on a system of ethics which asserted that man was endowed with a moral sense and a restless desire to better himself, formed the backbone of a complex theory of social and political evolution, which, in the critical years between 1795 and 1815 was the crucial element in a historical, economic and personal crusade.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: History