Query from a reader

Our old friend Brandon writes:

I’m currently re-thinking my Introduction to Philosophy and Ethics courses, and one thing I would like to do is to give the contributions of women a somewhat greater prominence in both. The Ethics course (which is a pretty standard utilitarianism/Kantianism/virtue ethics course, ending with some focus on particular problems, including women’s issues) is especially weak in this regard at present, but I think it’s the easiest one to remedy — Nussbaum, Arendt, O’Neill, and Foot all already get discussed at least briefly in the course of it, so it’s just a matter of bringing them out more completely. (Although I’d love any other suggestions for it.) The real puzzle I’m having is with the Intro course. Currently I have some Elizabeth of Bohemia (when doing Descartes) and Lady Mary Shepherd (when doing Hume), and end in a (very, very) brief look at contemporary feminist philosophy. But since it’s organized historically this means that it all comes at the very end of the course. I do discuss briefly the limited but real egalitarianism among the ancient Platonists and Neoplatonists, as I also do with the egalitarianism of James Beattie (but he comes toward the end of the course again). But I’ve been trying to think of ways to make the course less end-heavy without breaking the historical approach and haven’t come up with much. But other people are bound to have come up with something that they’ve found useful, so I was hoping to start collecting suggestions along these lines.

I’m a big believer in the importance of having *something* along these lines. I came to college from a pretty conservative Southern Baptist background, not exactly what you would think of as a target demographic for feminist philosophy. But I had a teacher for Intro and for Continental who explicitly brought feminist philosophy into the courses (Beauvoir in Intro, and feminist appropriations of Hegel, on which he had done work, in Continental), and I also had a teacher for 17th & 18th century who used Atherton’s book on women philosophers in the early modern period, and between the two of them they sparked a lasting interest, simply by having these things as part of their courses. So I’ve always tried to do something similar; but I’ve lately begun to wonder if there might be other opportunities I’m missing.