APA Blog On Frances Power Cobbe

Read Alison Stone's article on Frances Power Cobbe and Nineteenth-Century Moral Philosophy on the APA blog.

“Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) was an Anglo-Irish reformer who wrote about moral theory and moral epistemology, religion, evolution, duties to animals, feminism, welfare, mind and body, unconscious thought and aesthetics. In 1897 the American suffragist Frances Willard said of Cobbe that ‘distinguished critical authorities have assigned her the rank of greatest among living English women’. Cobbe’s biographer Ellen Mitchell agrees: ‘By the last quarter of the nineteenth century she was the most important British woman writer of intellectual prose’. Cobbe’s ideas were widely discussed – by Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick amongst others. Yet after her death Cobbe fell rapidly out of view, as has so often been the case for philosophical women.

In the last twenty years feminist scholars have rediscovered Cobbe, but they have focussed on her campaigning activity, especially for women’s suffrage and against animal experimentation. In this recent scholarship Cobbe is typically described as a journalist, a reformer and a campaigner. But she also wrote philosophical books and essays. Her first book was a two-volume philosophical treatise, the Essay on Intuitive Morals, in which she put forward an original and systematic moral theory. That theory provided the basis on which she subsequently addressed many practical and political issues, in light of which she revised her theory in turn. Her activism and philosophy informed and fed into one another.”

Read the article here on the APA blog.

Back to top