Mary Shelley? Mary Wollstonecraft? Wednesday Addams? Epictetus? George Stanhope? Gustav Friedrich Wiggers?
This notion has been attributed to English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft who was a prominent advocate of women’s rights. It has also been attributed to English writer Mary Shelley who authored the famous novel “Frankenstein”. An instance of this saying occurred in the recent Netflix streaming series “Wednesday” which centers on the character Wednesday Addams. Would you please help me to find a citation which presents the precise phasing of this quotation.
Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1790 Mary Wollstonecraft published “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” which included the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1790, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke by Mary Wollstonecraft, The Second Edition, Quote Page 136, Printed for J. Johnson, London. (Google Books … Continue reading
It may be confidently asserted that no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks. And the desire of rectifying these mistakes, is the noble ambition of an enlightened understanding, the impulse of feelings that Philosophy invigorates.
Thus, Mary Wollstonecraft deserves credit for this quotation although the theme can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus.
The attribution to Mary Shelley was probably caused by a naming confusion. Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and political philosopher William Godwin. Her birth name was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. She became Mary Shelley when she married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Supplementary citations are available in the full article on the Medium website which is available here.
Image Notes: Illustration of Eve selecting an apple with a serpent nearby from jeffjacobs1990 at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Ibon Basterrika whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Basterrika knew that Mary Wollstonecraft deserved credit and not Mary Shelley.