‘Classic’ readings by women

A reader sends the following query:

Our department is setting up a proseminar (basically a seminar for first year PhD students to get through some classic material, reinforce some methodology and do some bonding). Of course, there is a danger that ‘classic’ will be read as ‘seminal’ and all the papers taught will be by men. Does anyone have a list of classic papers by women? It might help my cause if I can proactively suggest some.

Suggestions much appreciated!

26 thoughts on “‘Classic’ readings by women

  1. Here are a few of my faves. There are many others, of course, but if I disagree with them vehemently, I’ve left them off (even if they’re “classics”!). Also, I’ve left out the technical stuff (I’m thinking Ruth Barcan Marcus here), because it’s mostly over my head.

    Anscombe, “Intentionality of Sensation”
    Thomasson, “A Nonreductive Solution to Mental Causation”
    Thomasson, _Ordinary Objects_ )book)
    Stebbing, _Philosophy and the Physicists_ (book)
    Bar-On, “Conceptual Relativism and Translation”
    Burr, _Religious Confessions and Confessants_ (book)
    Haack, “Double Aspect Foundherentism”

  2. Susan Wolf ‘Moral Saints’
    Anscombe ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’
    Korsgaard ‘Skepticism about Practical Reason’
    Lorraine Code ‘What Can She Know’ (book)
    Langton ‘Philosophy in Epistemology’

  3. Foot, “Utilitarianism and the Virtues”
    Korsgaard, “The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil”
    Wolf, “Moral Saints”
    Moody-Adams, “Culture, Responsibility, and Affected Ignorance”
    Douglas, “Inductive Risk and Values in Science”
    Okruhlik, “Gender and the Biological Sciences”

  4. Linda Zagzebski, ‘The Inescapability of Gettier Problems’
    Susan Wolf, ‘Moral Saints’
    Martha Nussbaum, ‘Objectification’
    Iris Murdoch, ‘The Idea of Perfection’
    Elizabeth Anderson, ‘What is the Point of Equality?’
    Cora Diamond, ‘Losing our Concepts’
    Rae Langton, ‘Sexual Solipsism’
    Barbara Herman, ‘On the Value of Acting from the Motive of Duty’
    Christine Korsgaard, ‘Skepticism about Practical Reason’

  5. Lynne Rudder Baker – Why Constitution Is Not Identity
    Judith Jarvis Thomson – The Statue and the Clay

  6. Nobody has mentioned Ruth Millikan. “Biosemantics” (J Phil 1989) I think is her most important single paper — the book _Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories_ is enormously influential but you may not want to assign a whole book in a proseminar.

  7. Philippa Foot, The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect

    A Defense of Abortion, by Judith Jarvis Thomson

  8. Murdoch’s been mentioned, but only one of her essays. I would have thought the entirety of ‘The Sovereignty of the Good’ is classic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same could be said for ‘From Metaphysics to Ethics’, though I’ve not read it and it’s not my field so don’t quote me on this.

    Jenefer Robinson’s ‘Startle’ is a classic in aesthetics. http://philpapers.org/rec/ROBS
    Amie Thomasson’s ‘Fiction and Metaphysics’ should be, but it’s not my field so I don’t know if it is.

  9. Of course, finding “classic” papers by women, especially in M&E, is not easy, due to the fact that “classic” tends to imply “mature”, as in “older”, and things used to be even worse for women in philosophy than they are now. But there are lots of good papers by Ruth Barcan Marcus you could include, especially if you intend to do some of the sense-reference history. E.g., “Modality and Intensional Logic”, though it is kind of hard. And it would be easy to do Anscombe’s little book “Intention”, which is still very influential.
    Another great woman philosopher from that era was Mary Mothersill, who mostly worked on aesthetics, though.
    More recent, and not yet mentioned: Susan Hurley, who has worked in lots of areas.
    Check PhilPapers on these folks.

  10. The year-long proseminar at my school does “classics of analytic philosophy”–or parts of them. The course is team-taught and each faculty member teaches one “classic” philosopher. In the values semester of the prosem, the current “big five” are: Sidgwick, Moore, Rawls, Parfit, and Anderson. I teach Anderson’s THE IMPERATIVE OF INTEGRATION in the last 3 weeks of the semester. It works well not only because of its content but also because.Anderson’s methodology is such a striking contrast to the methods used by the philosophers taught earlier.

  11. I always feel compelled to mention Annette Baier, whose papers to my mind stand the test of time. “Trust and Antitrust” ought to be a classic, if it is not already. “Mixing Memory and Desire” seems dated at first, but really isn’t at all once you get through the ordinary language approach. And “Cartesian Persons” is a personal favorite.
    If history of philosophy were part of a proseminar, there are lots of canonical pieces of secondary literature by women. Margaret Wilson was a game changer.

  12. Some of the more famous Kant/Hegel papers. Given the atmosphere of the field, they’re more recent:

    Allais, Lucy, “Kant’s one world: Interpreting ‘transcendental idealism”
    Longuenesse, Beatrice “Kant’s ‘I think’ versus Descartes’s ‘I am a thing that thinks’ ” i
    Sedgwick, Sally, “Hegel on the Empty Formalism of Kant’s Categorical Imperative”
    Shabel, Lisa, “Kant’s ‘Argument from Geometry'”

  13. Nancy Cartwright’s “Causal Laws and Effective Strategies” is a classic paper, especially in phil science/metaphysics.

  14. Another Anscombe entry – ‘The First Person’. Huge influence on the relevant chapter of ‘The Varieties of Reference’ and still very much discussed in the literature on the distinctive features of de se thought and talk.

  15. What Lisa said about the history of philosophy. Also, teaching history of philosophy (i) important; (2) philosophical ethics, perhaps especially, *requires* knowledge of its history and that cannot be accomplished adequately without reading a rather large number of women philosophers; and besides, (3) hist phil is necessary antidote to those first few pages of “Modern Moral Philosophy” for which there. is. no. excuse.

  16. Just to follow up on Lisa/Katy – I’ve taught Margaret Wilson’s Phil Review paper “History of Philosophy and Philosophy Today; and the Case of Sensible Qualities” in just such a proseminar, and it worked really well. Her paper is perfect for such a proseminar in part because it raises general questions about the relationship between history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy; issues which should be of interest and concern to all philosophers.

    For logic fans, I also found Susan Haack’s paper “The Justification of Deduction” to go over particularly well. It is a masterful paper and very clearly written, presupposing a minimum of technical background. Perfect for a proseminar of this sort.

  17. Some philosophy of science/biology:

    Helen Longino, “Can there be a Feminist Science?”
    Helen Longino, “Values and Objectivity?”
    Elisabeth Lloyd, “Pre-theoretical assumptions in evolutionary explanations of female sexuality”
    Sandra Mitchell, “Dimensions of Scientific Law”

  18. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention Marcus’ “A Functional Calculus of First Order Based on Strict Implication”, which I gather to be fairly important in the development of a proof-theory for modal logic.

  19. I don’t know if it is major enough to count as a “classic,” but Jane English’s “Underdetermination: Craig and Ramsey” (in the Journal of Philosophy in the early or mid 1970s) is very good: I always suggested it as at least a supplementary reading when introducing Ramsey-sentences and such in a variety of courses in metaphysics and philosophical psychology (and would certainly have included it if I had been teaching philosophy of science).

    Also on the boundary of philosophy of science with philosophy of language… Katharine Pyne Parsons wrote a couple of papers (early 1970s, I think) that deserve a look in connection with Kripke, Putnam, reference, and “realism”: I think she brought out more clearly than the famous men did that one of the motivations behind the “new theory of reference” was that it provided a response to the sort of semantic scepticism of Feyerabend &c.

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