This reading list has been designed to introduce undergraduates to the work of the Wartime quartet, however, we have tried to make the questions accessible to those outside philosophy who would also like an introduction to the quartet’s work! This schedule includes both text and audio files and has been collaboratively complied by four former members of previous In Parenthesis reading groups hoping to inspire future generations of IP reading groups to continue exploring the work of these wonderful women. We each selected our favourite texts and put together accompanying questions to prompt discussion on our favourite themes! We have tried to keep the readings shorter and so have mostly recommended extracts, as opposed to full texts, as we are aware that the undergraduate workload can make it difficult to engage in additional reading groups. We hope the shorter extracts help, and that our questions are a useful tool to facilitate your discussions!
The readings get more complex from week to week (with the exception of the last text), so you will want to follow the list in order if you want to be eased-in difficulty-wise. The reading list begins and ends with work by Clare MacCumhaill and Rachael Wiseman – an interview discussion in the beginning and the transcription of a talk at the end – which tackle the subject of these women as a unified philosophical school. We have done this to encourage reading group participants to read the texts with an eye on the bigger picture of the quartet’s unified philosophy. As such, it is strongly recommended – even if participants wish to dip in and out of the other readings on this list – that these two pieces provide the introduction and the conclusion to the reading group.
The reading list moves from one philosopher to the next, staring with Mary Midgley, who is the most accessible writer of the four. We hope that the ideas from each philosopher will help inform your reading of the next. We begin by exploring Mary Midgley’s work: first, her idea of ‘philosophical plumbing’ through which she discusses the purpose of philosophy and the role of the philosopher, then her discussion of ‘the concept of Beastliness’, followed by a look at our place in the world in ‘Individualism and the concept of Gaia’. Next, we explore the work of Philippa Foot: Chapter 1 of Foot’s Natural Goodness appears twice during this list, the first appearance deals exclusively with a small extract – focusing largely on Foot’s methodology – whilst the following entry deals with the content of the chapter more broadly. If both are read together, it is recommended that the general questions – which pertain to the whole chapter – are looked at after the questions on methodology. We end on an extract from Foot’s A Philosopher’s defence of Morality exploring the state of moral philosophy. For Murdoch, we have included two chapters taken from Existentialists and Mystics including ‘Against Dryness’ and ‘The Darkness of Practical Reason’ which both explore a central theme for Murdoch: imagination, and in different ways, highlight and decry the exclusion of the inner life from moral philosophy. This list closes with an exploration of the work of Elizabeth Anscombe; beginning with an extract taken from her seminal text Modern Moral Philosophy which raises methodological issues with the practice of moral philosophy, then moving on to an extract from Thought and Action in Aristotle in which she explores the idea that actions can be true (practical truth) and finally an extract from the First Person, a difficult text exploring the use of ‘I’ and its relation to self-consciousness.
We all very much hope that you will get as much enjoyment out of using this list as we did putting it together.
Annie, Amber, Sasha and Ellie