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MacCumhaill, Clare, Rachael Wiseman. A Female School of Analytic Philosophy? Anscombe, Foot, Midgley and Murdoch
2018, Women in Parenthesis website
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion

Introduction: The history of Analytic Philosophy we are familiar with is a story about men. It begins with Frege, Russell, Moore. Wittgenstein appears twice, once as the author of the Tractatus and then again later as the author of the Philosophical Investigations. Between Wittgenstein’s first and second appearance are Carnap and Ayer and the all-male Vienna Circle. Then come the post-second-world war Ordinary Language Philosophers – Ryle, and Austin. After that Strawson and Grice, Quine and Davidson.

The male dominance is not just in the names of the ‘star’ players. Michael Beaney’s 2013 Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy begins by listing the 150 most important analytic philosophers. 146 of them are men. For women who wish to join in this conversation, the odds seem formidably against one.

Today we will be speaking about two of the four women who warrant an entry in Beaney’s list – Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot. We will be talking about them alongside two other women Iris Murdoch and Mary Midgley. We think they should also be in the top 150, but our broader aims are more ambitious than increasing the proportion of important women from 2.7% to 4%.

Comment: This text offers a very accessible introduction to the work of the Wartime Quartet as well as a biographical and historical overview of their philosophical school status. It would be suitable for history of philosophy courses – especially those which emphasise or centre upon 20th century analytic philosophy. This text will also be essential for students who wish to set-up an In Parenthesis reading group, please see here for more information:

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