Mary Midgley (née Scrutton) was born in 1919 and studied Classics at Somerville College, Oxford (1937-42). During the war she worked in the Civil Service before returning to Oxford to begin a PhD with Gilbert Murray on Plotinus. She taught for four terms at Reading (1949-50). In 1950 she married fellow-philosopher Geoffrey Midgley and moved with him to Newcastle upon Tyne. When their three-children were teenagers she took a teaching post at Newcastle University, where she remained until the department’s closure in 1980. She died in 2018.

Midgley is best known for her book Beast and Man and for her public support of Gaia theory. She wrote about human nature at a time when the subject was taboo and was one of the first philosophers in Britain to take animals and nature seriously as philosophical topics. She wrote for the public about the necessity of ‘philosophical plumbing’—the task of understanding and transforming our concepts, especially when those concepts are out of date or causing practical problems. She was a fierce advocate for the history of ideas.

We’ve done our best to make sure this lifeline is accurate and complete. Please let us know if you spot any errors or omissions.

Mary Beatrice Midgley (1919-2018)

(13 September) Born in London to Lesley and Tom Scrutton

Takes the Oxford University entrance exam, and is awarded a place at Somerville College, studying Classics, alongside Iris Murdoch. Midgley went on to graduate with first-class honours.

Leaves Oxford and goes into the civil service

Returns to Oxford to do graduate work with Gilbert Murray, and in particular, research on Plotinus’ view of the soul

Begins teaching in the philosophy department of Reading University, where she remains for four terms

Marries Geoffrey Midgley, who was also a philosopher

Publication: ‘The Emancipation of Women’, The Twentieth Century, 152(901), pp. 217-25

Publication: ‘Bishop Butler: A reply’, The Twentieth Century, 152(905)

Publication: ‘Ou Sont les Neiges de ma Tante’, The Twentieth Century, pp. 168-79

Begins teaching in the philosophy department of Newcastle University, where she held her post until 1980

Publication: ‘Is “Moral” a Dirty Word?’,Philosophy, 47 (181), pp. 206-28

Publication: ‘The Concept of Beastliness: Philosophy, Ethics and Animal Behaviour’, Philosophy, 48, pp. 111-35

Publication: ‘XII—The Neutrality of the Moral Philosopher’,Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society, pp. 211-29

Publication: ‘The Game Game’, Philosophy, 49(189), pp. 231-53

Publication: ‘On Trying Out One’s New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer’, The Listener

Publication: ‘The Objection to Systematic Humbug’, Philosophy, 53(204), pp. 147-69

Publication: ‘More about Reason, Commitment and Social Anthropology’, Philosophy, 53(205), pp. 401-3

Publication: ‘Freedom and Heredity’, The Listener

Publication: Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature(Ithaca: Cornell University Press)

Publication: ‘Brutality and Sentimentality’, Philosophy, 54(209), pp. 385-89

Publication: ‘Gene-Juggling’, Philosophy, 54 (210), pp.  439-58. A response to J.L Mackie’s praise of The Selfish Gene[Richard Dawkins, 1976], in his paper ‘The Law of the Jungle: Moral Alternatives and Principles of Evolution,’ Philosophy, 53(206), 1978, pp. 455-64

Publication: ‘The All-Female Number’, Philosophy, 54(210), pp. 552-4

Publication: ‘The Absence of a Gap between Facts and Values’ (co-authored with Stephen R. L. Clark), Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society, pp. 207-23

Publication: ‘Consequentialism and Common Sense’, The Hastings Center Report, 10(5), pp. 43-4

Publication: Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience(Brighton: Harvester Press)

Publication: ‘Why Knowledge Matters’ in David Sperling (ed.),Animals in Research: New Perspectives in Animal Experimentation(Oxford: John Wiley & Sons), pp. 319-36

Publication: ‘Human Ideals and Human Needs’, Philosophy, 58(223), pp. 89-94

Publication: ‘Duties Concerning Islands’, Encounter, 60, pp. 36-43

Publication: ‘Towards a New Understanding of Human Nature: The Limits of Individualism’ in Donald J. Ortner (ed.), How Humans Adapt: A Biocultural Odyssey(Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Press), pp. 517-46

Publication: Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around The Species Barrier(Athens: University of Georgia Press)

Publication: ‘Selfish Genes and Social Darwinism’, Philosophy, 58(225), pp. 365-77

Publication: ‘Reductivism, Fatalism and Sociobiology’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 1(1), pp. 107-14

Publication: ‘De-Dramatizing Darwin’, The Monist, 67(2), pp.  205-15

Publication: Women’s Choices: Philosophical Problems Facing Feminism, co-authored with Judith Hughes (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Publication: Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul)

Publication: ‘Biological and Cultural Evolution’ (pamphlet) in Institute for Cultural Research Monograph Series, 20

Publication: ‘Sociobiology’, in Journal of Medical Ethics, 10, pp. 158-60

Publication: ‘On Being Terrestrial’, in S. C. Brown (ed.),Objectivity and Cultural Divergence: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture Series17 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) pp. 79-91

Publication: Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears(London: Methuen)

Publication: ‘Persons and Non-Persons’, in Peter Singer (ed.), The Defence of Animals(Oxford: Blackwell), pp. 52-62

Publication: ‘Philosophising Out in the World’, Social Research, 52(3), pp. 447-70

Publication: ‘Correspondence’ (with Anthony Flew), Journal of Applied Philosophy, 2(2), pp. 293-4

Publication: ‘Can Specialisation Damage Your Health?’, International Journal of Moral and Social Studies,2(1)

Publication: ‘Evolution as a Religion: A Comparison of Prophecies’, Zygon, 22(22), pp. 179-94

Publication: ‘The Flight from Blame’, Philosophy, 62(241), pp. 271-91

Publication: ‘Keeping Species on Ice’, in Virginia MacKenna, Will Travers and Jonathan Wray (eds), Beyond Bars: The Zoo Dilemma(Wellingborough: Thorsons), pp. 55-65

Publication: ‘Embarrassing Relatives: Changing Perceptions of Animals’, The Trumpeter,4(4) pp. 17-9

Publication: ‘Beasts, Brutes and Monsters’, in Tim Ingold (ed.), What is an Animal?(London: Unwin Hyman)

Publication: ‘On Not Being Afraid of Natural Sex Differences,’ in Morwenna Griffiths and Margaret Whitford (eds), Feminist Perspectives in Philosophy(London: MacMillan), pp. 29-41

Publication: ‘Teleological Theories of Morality’, in G. H. R. Parkinson (ed.), An Encyclopaedia of Philosophy(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Myths of Intellectual Isolation’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 89, pp. 19-32

Publication: Wisdom, Information and Wonder: What is Knowledge For? (London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Are You an Animal?’ in Gill Langley (ed.), Animal Experimentation: The Consensus Changes(London: MacMillan)

Publication: ‘The Value of “Useless” Research: Supporting Scholarship for the Long Run’, Report by the Council for Science and Society

Publication: ‘II—Myths of Intellectual Isolation’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 89(1), pp. 19-32

Publication: ‘Practical Solutions’, The Hastings Center Report, 19(6), pp. 44-5

Publication: ‘Why Smartness is not Enough’ in Mary E. Clark and Sandra A. Wawritko (eds), Rethinking the Curriculum: Towards an Integrated, Interdisciplinary College Education(New York: Greenwood Press)

Publication: ‘The Use and Uselessness of Learning’, European Journal of Education, 25(3), pp. 283-94

Publication: ‘Homunculus Trouble, or, What is Applied Philosophy?’. Journal of Social Philosophy, 21(1), pp. 5-15

Publication: Can’t We Make Moral Judgements?(New York: St. Martin’s Press)

Publication: ‘Rights-Talk Will Not Sort Out Child-abuse: Comment on Archard on Parental Rights’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 8(1), pp.  103-14

Publication: ‘The Origin of Ethics’, in Peter Singer (ed.),A Companion to Ethics(Oxford: Blackwell)

Publication: Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and its Meaning(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Towards a More Humane View of the Beasts’ in David E. Cooper and Joy A. Palmer (eds), The Environment in Question, (London: Routledge).

Publication: ‘The Significance of Species’ in Stephen Luper-Foy and Curtis Brown (eds), The Moral Life(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)

Publication: ‘Strange Contest, Science versus Religion’ in Hugh Montefiore (ed.), The Gospel and Contemporary Culture(London: Mowbray)

Publication: ‘The Idea of Salvation Through Science’, New Blackfriars, 73(860), pp. 257-65

Publication: ‘Is the Biosphere a Luxury?’, The Hastings Center Report, 22(3), pp. 7-12

Publication: ‘Beasts Versus the Biosphere?’, Environmental Values, 1(2), pp. 113-21

Publication: ‘Can science save its soul?: Some scientists have begun to talk confidently about understanding God and creation. They are crediting science with power it doesn’t possess’, New Scientist, 1832

Publication: ‘Reply to Marc Bekoff’, Environmental Values, 1(3), p. 256

Publication: ‘Philosophical Plumbing’ in A. Phillips Griffiths (ed.), The Impulse to Philosophise(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Publication: ‘The Four-Leggeds, The Two-Leggeds and the Wingeds’, Society and Animals, 1(1), pp. 9-15

Publication: ‘Must Good Causes Compete?’, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 2(2), pp. 133-42

Publication: The Ethical Primate: Humans, Freedom and Morality(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Visions, Secular and Sacred’, Milltown Studies, 34, pp.  74-93

Publication: ‘Darwinism and Ethics’ in K. W. M. Fulford, Grant Gillett and Janet Martin Soskice (eds), Medicine and Moral Reasoning(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Publication: ‘Bridge-Building at Last’ in Aubrey Manning and James Serpell (eds), Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘The End of Anthropocentrism?’ in Robin Attfield and Andrew Belsey (eds), Philosophy and the Natural Environment: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplementary Volume36 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 103-12

Awarded an honorary D. Litt. (Doctorate of Letters) by Durham University

Publication: ‘Reductive Megalomania’ in John Cornwall (ed), Nature’s Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘Trouble With Families?’ co-authored with Judith Hughes, in Introducing Applied Ethics(Oxford: Blackwell)

Publication: ‘The Challenge of Science, Limited Knowledge, or a New High Priesthood?’ in Alan Race and Roger Williamson (eds), True to this Earth(Oxford: One World Publications)

Publication: ‘The Mixed Community’ in James P. Serba (ed.),Earth Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Animal Rights and Practical Applications(New Jersey: Prentice Hall).

Publication: ‘The Ethical Primate. Anthony Freeman in discussion with Mary Midgley’, (co-authored with Anthony Freeman), Journal of Consciousness Studies,2 (1), pp. 67-75

Publication: ‘Zombies and the Turing Test,’ Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2(4), pp. 351-2

Publication: ‘Darwin’s Central Problems,’ Science, 268(5214), pp. 1196-8

Publication: Utopias, Dolphins and Computers: Problems of Philosophical Plumbing (London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘One World—But A Big One’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3(5-6)

Publication: ‘Earth Matters: Thinking about the Environment,’ in Sarah Dunant and Roy Porter (eds), The Age of Anxiety(London: Virago)

Publication: ‘Science in the World,’ Science Studies, 9 (2), pp. 49-58

Publication: ‘Can Education be Moral?’ Res Publica, 2 (1), pp. 77-85

Publication: ‘Sustainability and Moral Pluralism’, in Ethics and the Environment, 1(1), pp. 41-54

Publication: ‘The View from Britain,’ (co-authored with Judith Hughes), American Philosophical Association: Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, 96(1)

Death of Geoffrey Midgley

Publication: ‘Visions of Embattled Science’, in Ralph Levinson and Jeff Thomas (eds), Science Today: Problem or Crisis?(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘The Soul’s Successors: Philosophy and the “Body”’ in Sarah Coakley (ed.), Religion and the Body(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Publication: ‘Skimpole Unmasked’, History of the Human Sciences, 10(4), pp. 92-6

Publication: ‘Putting Ourselves Together Again’, in John Cornwell (ed.), Consciousness and Human Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘The Problem of Humbug,’ in Matthew Kieran (ed.), Media Ethics(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Sorting Out The Zeitgeist: The Moral Philosophy of Iris Murdoch’, The Philosopher, 86(1)

Publication: ‘The Myths We Live By’ in Wes Williams (ed.),The Values of Science: Oxford Amnesty Lectures1997 (New York: Westview Press).

Publication: ‘Towards an Ethic of Global Responsibility’, in Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler (eds), Human Rights in Global Politics(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Publication: ‘Should We Let Them Go?’ in Francine L. Dolins (ed.), Attitudes to Animals: Views in Animal Welfare(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.152-63.

Publication: ‘Being Scientific about Our Selves,’ Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(4), pp. 85-98

Publication: ‘Midgley on Murdoch,’ The Philosophers’ Magazine, 7, pp. 45-6

Publication: ‘Determinism, Omniscience, and the Multiplicity of Explanations,’ Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 22(5), pp. 900-1

Publication: ‘The Origins of Don Giovanni,’ Philosophy Now, 25, p. 32

Publication: Science and Poetry(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Human Nature, Human Variety, Human Freedom’ in Neil Roughley (ed.), Being Humans: Anthropological Universality and Particularity(Berlin: Walter de Gruyter).

Publication: ‘Why Memes?’ in Hilary Rose and Steven Rose (eds), Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology(London: Jonathan Cape).

Publication: ‘The Need for Wonder’ in Russell Stannard (ed.),God for the 21st Century(Templeton Foundation Press)

Publication: ‘Consciousness, Fatalism and Science,’ in Niels Hendrik Gregerson, Willem B. Drees and Ulf Gorman (eds), The Human Person in Science and Theology(Edinburgh: T & T Clark)

Publication: ‘Review: Alchemy Revived,’ The Hastings Center Report, 30(2), pp. 41-3

Publication: ‘Biotechnology and Monstrosity: Why We Should Pay Attention to the “Yuk Factor”’, The Hastings Center Report, 30(5), pp. 7-15

Publication: ‘Individualism and the Concept of Gaia,’ Review of International Studies, 26, pp. 29-44

Co-founded the Gaia Network, alongside David Midgley and Tom Wakeford

Publication: Gaia: The Next Big Idea(London: Demos)

Publication: ‘The Problem of Living with Wildness’ in Virginia A. Sharpe, Bryan G. Norton and Strachan Donnelley (eds), Wolves and Human Communities: Biology, Politics and Ethics(Washington D.C: Island Press), pp. 179-90

Publication: ‘What Gaia Means,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Walk on the Dark Side,’ Philosophers Magazine, 14, pp. 23-5

Publication: ‘Being Objective,’ Nature, 410 (753)

Publication: ‘The bankers’ abstract vision of the globe is limited,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Heaven and Earth: An Awkward History,’ Philosophy Now, 34

Publication: ‘Choosing the Selectors,’ in Michael Wheeler, John Ziman and Margaret A. Boden (eds), The Evolution of Cultural Entities(Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Publication: ‘Pluralism: The Many Maps Model,’ Philosophy Now, 35

Publication: ‘It’s all in the mind,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘How Real Are You?’, Think: A Periodical of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, 1(2), pp. 35-46

Publication: ‘Enough is never enough,’ The Guardian

Publication: The Myths We Live By(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Criticising the Cosmos’ in Willem B. Drees (ed.), Is Nature Ever Evil?: Religion, Science and Value (London: Routledge), pp. 11-26

Publication: ‘Fate by fluke,’ [Review of Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves], The Guardian

Publication: ‘Science and Poetry,’ Situation Analysis, 2, pp. 29-31

Publication: ‘Curiouser and curiouser’, [Review of Charles Pasternak’s Quest: The Essence of Humanity], The Guardian

Publication: ‘Mind and Body: The End of Apartheid,’ in David Lorimer (ed.), Science, Consciousness, and Ultimate Reality(Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp. 173-97

Publication: ‘Science and Poetry,’ in John Haldane (ed.), Values, Education and the Human World(Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp. 219-33

Publication: ‘Atoms, Memes and Individuals,’ in John Haldane (ed), Values, Education and the Human World(Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp. 234-49

Publication: ‘Do We Even Act?’ in Dai A. Rees and Steven Rose (eds), The New Brain Sciences: Perils and Prospects(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.17-33.

Publication: ‘Why Clones?’ The Scientific and Medical Network Review, 84.

Publication: ‘Zombies Can’t Concentrate,’ Philosophy Now, 44, pp. 13-4

Publication: ‘Counting the cost of revenge,’ [Review of Judith Butler’s Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence], The Guardian

Publication: ‘Souls, Minds, Bodies & Planets’ (Pt1), Philosophy Now, 47

Publication: ‘Souls, Minds, Bodies & Planets’ (Pt2), Philosophy Now, 48

Publication: ‘On the origin of creationism,’ New Scientist, 2479

Publication: The Owl of Minerva: A Memoir(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Mapping science: in memory of John Ziman,’ Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 30(3), pp. 195-7

Publication: David Midgley (ed.), The Essential Mary Midgley(London: Routledge)

Publication: ‘Visions and Values,’ Resurgence, 228

Publication: ‘Proud not to be a doctor,’ The Guardian

Sits for the sculptor Jon Edgar, as a part of his work, Environment Triptych, which also features James Lovelock, and Richard Mabey

Publication: ‘Rethinking sex and the selfish gene: why we do it’ (Book review), Heredity, 96 (3), pp. 271-2

Publication: ‘Dover Beach: Understanding the Pains of Bereavement,’ Philosophy, 81(2), pp. 209-30

Publication: Midgley (ed.) Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia(Exeter: Imprint Academic)

Publication: ‘What Do We Mean By Scrutiny,’ Philosophy Now, 61

Publication: ‘Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems’ (pamphlet) in Impact, 15

Publication: ‘Mary Midgley on Dawkins,’ Interlog: Exploring Buddhist-Christian Christian-Buddhist Themes

Publication: ‘A Plague On Both Their Houses,’ Philosophy Now, 64

Awarded an honorary D. C. L. (Doctorate of Civil Law) by Newcastle University

Publication: ‘Why Farm Animals Matter,’ in M. Dawkins and R. Bonney (eds), The Future of Animal Farming: Renewing the Ancient Contract(Oxford: Blackwell), pp. 21-32

Publication: ‘Does Science Make God Obsolete? Of Course Not’, John Templeton Foundation, pp. 11-2

Publication: ‘Reason is just another faith,’ New Scientist, 2666

Publication: ‘Cold wars and grand conclusions,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘All too human,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Purpose, Meaning and Darwinism,’ Philosophy Now, 71, pp. 16-9

Publication: ‘Selectionism can only take us so far,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 1: Strange selves’; ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part 2: Freedom and Desolation’; ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part 3: What is selfishness?’; ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 4: Selling total freedom’; ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 5: The end of individualism’; ‘Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 6: responses to readers’; ‘Hobbes’ Leviathan, part 7: His idea of war’; ‘Hobbes Leviathan, part 8: Can we ride the Leviathan?’. The Guardian

Publication: ‘Formulas built in myth,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Love and its Disappointment’. Review. Philosophy Now, 75

Publication: The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene(Durham: Acumen)

Publication: ‘The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist’. Book review, The Guardian

Publication: ‘The abuses of science,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Metaphysics and the limits of science,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘The Mythology of Selfishness,’ The Philosophers’ Magazine, 53, pp. 35-45

Publication: ‘The selfish metaphor: Conceits of evolution,’New Scientist, 2797

Publication: ‘Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey – review,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Why the Idea of Purpose Won’t Go Away,’ Philosophy, 86(4), pp. 545-61

Publication: ‘Age is a continuum – not two tribes to be made equal,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake – review,’ The Guardian

Publication: ‘Death and the Human Animal,’ Philosophy Now, 89

Publication: Are You an Illusion? (Durham: Acumen)

Publication: ‘Does Philosophy Get Out of Date?’, Philosophy Now, 103

Publication: ‘A Golden Manifesto’, Philosophy Now, 116, pp. 34-6.

Publication: What is Philosophy For? (Bloomsbury)   

(10 October) Died at home in Newcastle


Sarah Lewin (23/10/16)

My name is Sarah Lewin. Last year, during my final year of study for a BA in Philosophy at Durham, I was fortunate enough to begin working on the In Parenthesis project, as a Research Associate. My fundamental task was to compile comprehensive timelines for each of the women studied by the project: Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch and Mary Warnock. These timelines aimed to chronicle all the significant life events and philosophical publications of the women, as well as any details of their interactions with one another. As straightforward as this task initially sounded, compiling the timelines proved to be much more challenging than anticipated. Each of the women were incredibly prolific, with Mary Midgley in particular producing 4-5 philosophical essays and reviews each month, from the early 1970’s, until present. The other four women had similarly staggering bibliographies to contend with, and many hours were spent consolidating this information into cohesive chronologies. Ultimately, I wanted to make the timelines as accurate as possible, and spent a great deal of time tracing each publication back to its original source, in order to ensure that all the bibliographical information presented in my work was correct. Despite being challenging, it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to research these incredible women, and to gain an insight into both their personal, and academic lives. Perhaps the greatest pleasure of all was hearing that Mary Midgley herself had read my chronicle of her life and works, and was able to add a few personal details that were not available through any amount of research. This additional input from Midgley ensures that her completed timeline offers a significantly comprehensive biographical account, and I am confident that the other four timelines are similarly illuminating, and accurate. Above all, the opportunity to do my own research for the In Parenthesis project has really confirmed to me that philosophy is something I would love to continue pursuing. This year I will be returning to Durham to do an MA in philosophy, and my work on the project has undoubtedly been a great factor in the success of my application. I’ve also been very fortunate to receive a scholarship from Durham University to help cover the tuition fees, and again, I am grateful to the In Parenthesis project for putting me in such a strong position for this award.