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.

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

  1. “[I]t is arguable that philosophy’s own self-image continues to be tainted by a conception of objectivity that universalises men’s perspectives.”

    Obviously, this special issue is a welcome development. Unfortunately, the introduction perpetuates the tradition of casually ignoring or presuming the whiteness of philosophy by refusing to recognize that the “men’s perspectives” in question are overwhelmingly those of men racalized as white.

  2. I’ve learned a great deal from one of the contributors to this discussion; he has worked extremely effectively to demonstrate the exclusionary nature of so much in academic philosophy. But I want to suggest that the discussion should not focus itself exclusively on the supposed whiteness of the volume.

    I say ‘supposed’ because when I see a Croatian author writing about a renaissance Italian woman, I think we mislead ourselves if we say just “more white philosophy.” Are Croatians racialized as whites? Or as Arabs? Are Arabs racialized as white? Is there some right answer here? As far as I can tell from googling, the “ethnicity/race” of Croatians is Croatian. In any case, an article in the Monist on an Italian Renassaance woman whose lead author is – male Croatian is breaking barriers.

  3. Are Croatians racialized as whites?

    I’ve know quite a lot of people from the former Yugoslavia (though more Serbs than Croats, I’ll admit) and I’m pretty sure they would all be very surprised if you suggested they might not be white, for what that’s worth. (The dominant religion in Croatia, insofar as people are religious at all, is Catholicisms, so it would be odd if they were very typically racialized as Arabs. I suppose that might sometimes happen Bosnians, but it would still be a bit odd.) This is just for information purposes, really. (At one point there was a pretty interesting philosophy journal out of the former Yugoslavia, Praxis International, that had lots of Croatians (and others) doing work in English, along w/ lots of native English speakers.)

  4. My comment @1 was in response to the introduction’s tiresome, misleading, color-unsighted claim about “men’s perspectives.” This had nothing to do with what we now seem to know is an all-white lineup of contributors to the special issue.

    Since it’s been asked…. Croatians are racialized as white, since they’re unambiguously European; Arabs generally aren’t racialized as white. The trend of tactically problematizing whiteness when trying to deflect actual or anticipated criticism of overwhelmingly white venues is unhelpful.

  5. Philosophy need not be helpful when it interrogates central terms in a discourse, but that does not mean it is unimportant. I think we have a good idea of what white cultural hegemony is, and I myslf don’t think Croatians are typically part of that. Is white cultural hegemony a matter of a racial hegemony? I don’t really know; ‘white’ as a racial term seems to me really problematic, even though its use in cultural contexts can be very useful. And I am not sure that the Croatians, beliefs are all that relevant, pace Matt.. According to some athorities, language, body type and cultural artefacts indicate an Iranian origin.

  6. According to some athorities, language, body type and cultural artefacts indicate an Iranian origin.

    I worry that this is really taking us off track, but I wonder if you have “Croatians” in mind Anne, or some other group. Croats are Southern Slavs, essentially indistinguishable from Serbs and other Southern Slavs except for some historical events that separated them so that Croats ended up using latin letters and were Catholic while Serbs (who were under the Ottomans longer) kept using cyrilic letters and were Orthodox Christians. But, until recently (and that for purely political reasons) “Serbo-Croatian” was thought to be one language, and that, very obviously, a Slavic language. (It’s very close to Russian.) Croats are very close to other Slavs linguisticly and culturally. I think you must be thinking of some other group here, given what you’ve said. (Unless you thought it was doubtful whether, say Slovaks or Poles were “racialized as white”, I can’t see why you’d think another group of closely related slaves, who also share the same “western” religion, would not be “racialized” as white.)

  7. Matt, I’m sure Anne does have Croatians in mind–I’ve heard about this theory from historians as well, though I believe it’s a matter of great dispute. I, too, am worried we are getting a bit far of course now.

    These things all seem true:

    1. It is very easy when attempting to address the underrepresentation of women in philosophy to fail to attend to other patterns of underrepresentation, marginalization broadly, and intersectionality.

    2. (1) can itself perpetuate marginalization in very unjust ways.

    3. Attending to matters of intersectionality is important both in the service of justice and in the service of more narrow goals regarding the status of women (as it’s not only, e.g., white, wealthy, western, women who are underrepresented, and so focusing on this group–accidentally or intentionally–can undermine the goal of promoting women’s equality).

    4. Some groups may be racialized as white and yet still be subject to some similar exclusion as groups not racialized as white in virtue of ethnicity, culture, or different culture contexts having varying racial categories.

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