Women in Philosophy of Religion

Are women even more poorly represented in philosophy of religion than elsewhere in the discipline?

I ask because I’m currently putting together a syllabus for an upper level metaphysics class. I’m doing my best to ensure women philosophers are well-represented. For the most part I’ve found it quite easy to identify great work by women philosophers on the central topics, but I’m really struggling with philosophy of religion – specifically arguments for and against theism. I’m planning to focus most of my effort on the ontological argument, and it is quite striking how poorly represented women are in most of the reading lists and encyclopedia entries I’ve found. (Although I haven’t checked every single name for gender, it looks like the bibliography of the Stanford entry on the ontological argument might even be exclusively male). Also, the great Women’s Works site doesn’t seem to have a page for religion yet (I just get a blank screen).

Anscombe’s response to Hume’s argument about causes is excellent, but obviously not quite in the right ballpark. If anyone can suggest work by women that’s either specifically about the ontological argument, or bears upon it in a student-friendly sort of way, I’d be very grateful. General information about the state of affairs for women in Phil Religion is also welcome.

24 thoughts on “Women in Philosophy of Religion

  1. It’s not the ontological argument, but both Eleonore Stump and Marilyn Adams have done extremely influential work in the philosophy of religion, particularly on the problem of evil. Linda Zagzebski has some nice pieces on the freedom & foreknowledge debate. There are other women working in the philosophy of religion, but I think those are the three big names.

  2. I second Eric’s suggestion that the above are the three big names, but I would also maybe add Katherine Rogers, Frances Howard-Snyder, and Lynne Rudder Baker.

  3. That’s handy thank you! I think I’ll simply add a section on the problem of evil so I can make use of their work.

  4. In general, women do seem to be more poorly represented in philosophy of religion. There are of course, as others have noted, women doing excellent work in this subfield. But if one goes to a Society of Christian Philosophy conference, one finds the meetings even more male-dominated than in the discipline at large. This is something that the SCP is aware of and wanting to address. I’ve heard a number of theses as to why this is. Any suggestions from readers here on how to do that would be greatly appreciated.

  5. If it helps: Lynne Rudder Baker is a major figure in philosophy of religion, and she has written on the ontological argument.

  6. Anscombe has some papers in phil of religion. There are also some wonderful women theologians. The person jender mentions in her post on kierarchy (sp?) is one.

  7. I do some work on philosophy of religion and metaphysics, and I am not aware of any strong papers by women on the ontological or cosmological arguments. I second suggestions that you assign some of Lynne Rudder Baker’s work– she is a fantastic metaphysician and philosopher of religion and has very interesting work on materialism/dualism that is accessible to students.

    Also, on the general theme of women in phil religion. This blog has a very effective Gendered Conference Campaign. I thought I would point out at an excellent philosophy of religion conference put together by Mark Murphy, Mike Rea, and Jon Kvanvig this coming fall. 1/3rd of the invited speakers are women. It would be wonderful to see similar representation in the volunteers for comments. http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2011/04/bgnd-conference.html.

  8. A google search of “women in philosophy of religion” turned up this page (http://www.rochester.edu/college/rel/faculty/wierenga/REL111/women.html), which has 20 or so papers. Hopefully this is just a list of the most important ones, because it is quite short. But while some of the central figures in the discipline are female (the ones mentioned above, as well as Nancey Murphy), I think philosophy of religion certainly has a lower ratio of women:men than most other subdisciplines.

    Lara Buchak, while not a philosopher of religion, has a really nice forthcoming piece on the rationality of faith. And Louise Antony has a piece in _Philosophers Without Gods_ that is very good. While I suspect neither of these would be good for a metaphysics class, they’re worth reading.

  9. Probably not what you’re looking for, but the early modern philosophers Anne Conway and Margaret Cavendish have a fair bit of writing on religion and integrating religion with their metaphysical systems.

  10. I believe that Cora Diamond has some papers on Anselm’s ontological argument. It’s been a long time, but I remember liking them when I first read them.

  11. I have seen a reference to Martha Nussbaum on, I think, faith and justice.

    Looking at Amazon.com can be very useful for finding collections with references. I tried “feminist philosophy of religion.”

  12. An essay that immediately comes to mind is Cora Diamond’s “Riddles and Anselm’s Riddle”, from her collection _The Realistic Spirit_. Also, I might add that the translator of the Penguin book _The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm_ is Benedicta Ward, S. L. G., who has also written _Anselm of Cantebury: His Life and Legacy_. While not related to Anselm, Sarah Coakley’s work on religious epistemology would be good to use if you plan to deal with the topic.

    How one understands the boundaries of “philosophy of religion” will count for much in determining which women have done work in the subfield (is it a subfield of philosophy, of religious studies, of theology, or perhaps all of these?). A metaphysically focused course in philosophy of religion may or may not find these texts appropriate.

    I might also mention that Eugene Thomas Long has a chapter on Feminist Philosophy of Religion in his _Twentieth Century Western Philosophy of Religion_ and there he mentions a 1994 special issue of Hypatia on Feminist Philosophy of Religion that was edited by Nancy Frankenberry.

  13. You might like to take a look at Nancey Murphey’s work on divine action. Jennifer Faust from California State has written on religious arguments (I’ve recently read a beautiful paper from her in IJPR).
    It is true that there are not many senior, well-known women in philosophy of religion who could provide syllabus material, but there are probably more junior women philosophers of religion around. For example, I’ve written both on the cosmological argument and the argument from design. My paper on the argument from design has appeared in Zygon: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01120.x/abstract . My paper on the cosmological argument is forthcoming in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. If you like, I can send you the latest draft after peer review.

  14. Marcy Lascano has done some good work on early modern female philosophers on traditional arguments for God’s existence. (Also, add my votes for Stump, McCord Adams, Rudder Baker, Buchak, & Zagzebski.)

  15. Hello all,
    I have a friend that posted this very interesting blog on facebook. While, female philosophers, IMHO, are underrepresented they are out there. I have decided to post a few names of influential woman thinkers in this area. Some are not philosophers, but mystics, never the less I hope the names help you out in creating your curriculum.
    best of luck to all,

    Rosemary Radford Ruether
    Evelyn Underhill
    Lilian Staveley
    Flower A. Newhouse
    …Anna “Annie” Kingsford

    Sister Nivedita
    Amma Sri Karunamayi (modern)
    Sudhamani Idamannel
    Mirra Alfassa

    Rabia Basri
    Hazrat Babajan

    A source for free E-books (saving your students a little money) penned by Evelyn Underhill: http://www.christianmystics.com/traditional/womenmystics.html

  16. Eden and Stephen, that’s very good news. Could you keep us updated as it progresses?
    BTW, I used red pandas as an example in an article recently. They are fascinating.

  17. We will be sure to keep you updated! We just added around 150 more items to the bibliography. We didn’t find much on the ontological argument, but we did find this book chapter which hasn’t been mentioned:

    Garcia, Laura. “Ontological Arguments for God’s Existence.” Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, 2nd ed. Ed. Kelly James Clark. Buffalo, NY: Broadview Press, 2008. ?.

  18. Oh my! I’m a bit late in entering the discussion but I have to say that there are really some important names missing, at least if you are interested in FEMINIST philosophy of religion: The first two monografies on this subject was written by Pamela Sue Anderson (A Feminist Philosophy of Religion, 1998), and Grace M. Jantzen (Becoming Divine – Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion, 1999). Another book of importance is Feminist Philosophy of Religion – Critical Readings, edited by Pamela Sue Anderson and Beverly Clack (2004), with a very interesting and well-written piece by Nancy Frankenberry called “Feminist Approaches”.

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