The Monist: An Issue on Women’s Contributions to Philosophy

The table of contents is here, and the following is from the introduction:

The editors are convinced that work on the history of women philosophers is integral to the development of philosophy as a discipline. As women have become better represented in the academy, they have turned to issues of relevance to women. But philosophy has lagged behind other humanities disciplines in appointing women. There is disagreement over the reasons for this, but it is arguable that philosophy’s own self-image continues to be tainted by a conception of objectivity that universalises men’s perspectives. Forty years ago, when feminists first fought to include feminist theory as an area of teaching and research within philosophy, feminism was opposed as not ‘objective.’ In reaction to this, works such as Lloyd’s The Man of Reason and the papers in Harding and Hintikka’s Discovering Reality, among many others, challenged simplistic notions of ‘objective reason’. The results were, however, not entirely positive for the inclusion of women within philosophy, but encouraged the abandonment of philosophy in favour of literature, or women’s studies, where methods were apparently less ‘masculine.’

The very fact that a journal like The Monist is now publishing an issue on the history of women’s contributions to philosophy is evidence that much has changed in the past forty years. As Waithe, Hutton, and Hagengruber demonstrate in their contributions, a growing number of women are now recognised as having engaged with philosophical problems in the past, some have left works which have been the object of contemporary scholarship, and some of these have been re-edited in contemporary editions. All this should facilitate the ongoing integration of their works into the canon. Moreover, work on historical women philosophers has important implications for our understanding of the history of our culture, what counts, or should count, as philosophy, the shape that the canon ought to take, and the criteria for truth and reason in a nonsexist society. Jonathan Rée concluded his early discussion, “Women Philosophers and the Canon,” with the comment that integrating women philosophers into the history of philosophy would “require a reconfiguration of philosophical inquiry itself and a systematic reworking of its relations to its future and its past.” We agree.

The papers we present here manifest some of the differing approaches that might be taken to the history of women’s contribution to philosophy.