In Parenthesis is a research collaboration between Dr Clare Mac Cumhaill and Dr Rachael Wiseman. We are making a study of the collective corpus of Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley and Iris Murdoch, a quartet of philosophers who met and became friends at Oxford University during WWII. When war was declared, many of the University dons and male students were enlisted in war work. A. J. Ayer, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin and R. M. Hare were among them. As a result, these women enjoyed a university environment where, for the first time, women were no longer the minority.
In the years immediately following the war, the friends met regularly, often at Philippa Foot’s house in north Oxford, and began to set out a detailed and comprehensive philosophical response to the dominant conception of human nature, perception, action and ethics. Though previously unrecognised as such they are a unique case of an all-female philosophical school.
We are charting, through scholarly and archival work, the distinctive methodology, philosophical attitude and metaphysics of the school in order to demonstrate the transformative potential of its philosophy. Through our projects we aim to disrupt the dominant historical narrative of analytic philosophy in ways that contribute to current, discipline-wide efforts to stem the attrition of female talent from philosophy.