Women in Philosophy – Redux 1

Back in 1999, when The Philosophers’ Magazine was only a couple of years old, Julian and I put together a “forum” on women in philosophy.

I thought I might resurrect some of the pieces, starting with an interview with Mary Warnock.

You can read it here. It’s in PDF format, but feel free to comment below (if you’re so inclined). Also, apologies for the production values – TPM was being produced out of two bedrooms at this point.

Actually, there’s a somewhat amusing story relating to this interview that I can probably tell now. In the early days of TPM, we used to chase “big names” for interviews, because we figured this was the most effective way of generating interest in what we were doing. So we were very pleased when Mary Warnock agreed to be interviewed. Thing is, she wanted to do the interview by phone, which meant that Julian had to buy a little gizmo thing to record the interview. This involved a lot of fairly farcical pfaffing around ensuring that it was working properly, with Julian on one end of a phone and me on the other. Eventually he got it as he wanted it, and it worked – it was possible to hear enough to transcribe a phone interview.

Anyway, the interview went ahead, the gizmo did its job, Warnock was audible, and everything pretty much worked perfectly, which meant we had the centre piece for our women in philosophy forum. Except, as it turned out, we didn’t, because Julian promptly managed to lose the tape! We searched everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. In the end – and much to my amusement, it’s got to be said – Julian had to confess what had happened to Baroness Warnock (I’m sure I used her title a lot when telling him he’d have to fess up), and ask her whether she’d be willing to redo the interview. She was very gracious about it, so we got our piece in the end.

There’s quite a lot of other material on the topic of women and philosophy floating around in our archive – including a large survey, if I remember correctly – so I’ll flag some more up here in due course.

  1. I’m sure a lot of this sounded sensible in the late 90s Science War setting. Hard not to. After all, everybody likes to knock together the heads of postmodernists — it’s good fun. And it’s for a good cause, too; the fact is, reality ain’t relative, and truth is more than just talk.

    Yet only just over a decade has passed, and to my eye the connection between feminist epistemology and postmodernism seems so fraught that it can’t be just taken for granted. Yes, of course, there are extremes in standpoint theory; and, yes, the curious talk of ‘overlapping subjectivities’ has spread like kudzu through social and political theory. But from the point of view of philosophy in 2012, some of the most interesting research programs in Science & Technology Studies, cognitive science, social epistemology, and the philosophy of language have been influenced by writers who broadly identify as feminists. That is in no small part due to the shift towards experimental philosophy, and the rediscovery that many perfectly informed and reasonable people are nonetheless terrible epistemic judges — that standpoint corrupts our judgments in interesting and predictable ways.

    So, interesting.

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