The afternoon of Monday 3rd December, as well as being inevitably rainy and rather cold, was host to two accomplished young women, well embedded within the academic field of Philosophy.
With them, they brought a clear, succinct message, summarised in the title of the project that they are currently undertaking on behalf of the copious forgotten contributions of women to Philosophy, ‘Philosopher Queens’; there is more than enough room for women to rule in a male-dominated sphere of study. Of course, the location of their speech being Kendrick, their innovation was well-received. A book resurrecting the long-buried philosophical thoughts of various women over the course of history? Stories of undeserved misogyny and accounts of ignominious oppression? Oh, how we delighted at their attempts at academic integration!
Over the course of an hour, the audience of students, representing Years 10-13 of the school, were taken through the precarious careers of several notable women. Hypatia of Alexandria and Hannah Arendt, namely, who represent the polar ends of the timeline of women’s involvement in Philosophy, belonging to 4th century Egypt and 20th century Germany and North America respectively, had their involvement in academia brought under scrutiny. We discovered that Hypatia, as well as an adept mathematician and astronomer, was a respected philosopher of the Eastern Roman Empire; her influence is demonstrated in many letters found addressed to her residence, simply marked ‘the philosopher’. On the other end of the spectrum, Arendt’s work bespoke excellence in political theory, drawing influence from the rise of several totalitarian leaders to power in the interwar period, in particular Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, in her country of birth, Joseph Stalin and Francisco Franco. Despite her literary successes, ‘Philosopher Queens’ does not succumb to simply painting Arendt as morally faultless; but remains dutifully transparent by informing readers of her prejudicial support of racial segregation (of black and white individuals).
It was refreshing to hear the stories of such norm-defying women and we were appreciative that their many contributions to Philosophy are now finally being recognised, even if in some cases, nearly 2000 years after their deaths. In an academic field so stifled by the expectation of the stereotypical philosopher, influenced by the bearded intensity of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, it is important to remember that the only prerequisite for one to be labelled a ‘philosopher’ is to ‘love wisdom’, as its name denotes.
Typically, the narrative of Philosophy (thus far) has been determined and outlined by men, despite the copious array of material written by women. In writing this book, Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting take hold of the pen and help to reconstruct the narrative by recognising the ways in which women have shaped Philosophy over the years and how they have impacted history.
Contrary to the belief of some, the representation of women within Philosophy is a necessity and shan't be deemed a luxury.
Louise and Charlotte Y12