Topic: Culture

Philippa Foot ‘Sir’ letter

Photo of Certificate, Photo of letter, Guidance Qs (t. b. w) In May 1983, Philippa Foot was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was sent a rather grand certificate (click to enlarge) informing her of the honor. As you may notice, the certificate is addressed: ‘Sir’. In 1983! Foot wrote this wonderful letter to the AAAS in...

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Silencing and Speaker Vulnerability: Undoing an oppressive form of (wilful) ignorance

 by Pamela Sue Anderson Essay, Photo, Guidance Qs (t.b.w.) Pamela wrote this paper for our International Women’s Day Conference 2016 [link], Resounding Voices: Women, Silence and the Production of Knowledge. It is with her permission that we publish the full script here. Tragically, Pamela passed away in March 2017. Her beautiful paper offers a way of conceptualising what we are, or should conceive ourselves as, (collectively) doing  as philosophers: cultivating reciprocal relations to the unknown. ABSTRACT The French feminist philosopher, Michèle Le Doeuff, has taught us something about ‘the collectivity’, which she discovers in women’s struggle for access to the philosophical, but also about ‘the unknown’ and ‘the unthought’ (Le Doeuff 1989, 128). It is the unthought, which will matter most to what I intend to say today about a fundamental ignorance, on which speaker vulnerability is built. On International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to speak about – or, at least, to evoke – the silencing which has been imposed on women by an oppressive form of ignorance. My question is: how do our resounding voices as women – on 8 March 2016 – avoid what feminist philosophers have distinguished as wilful forms of silencing? Silencing exploits vulnerability; and speaker vulnerability is an exposure to either violence or affection, in its dependence on an audience. My response seeks to undo the silencing of women by transforming an ignorance...

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Then and Now

by Mary Midgley Mary Midgley Considers How What Is Called Philosophy Has Changed Since She And Her Friends First Plunged Into It Changes In World-Pictures. When we four people started studying Philosophy at Oxford in the early 1940s, quite a lot of the topics that we might have expected to discuss – most importantly, Human Nature, the Spiritual Life and the Behaviour of non-human Animals – simply could not be mentioned in philosophical circles at all. First, Behaviourists had shown that there was `no such thing as Human Nature’. All behaviour was simply reactive – produced by other behaviour. Next, Animal behaviour was part of Zoology. A few Comparative Psychologists were studying the differences between human and animal thought. but this chiefly meant showing that animals can’t do certain things which humans can. And finally, as for the Spiritual Life, religious concepts were being studied on their own as separate topics by people who were not necessarily interested in their importance, or keen to relate them to other aspects of life. Thus the only mental heritage that was deemed to be common to the whole human race was Rationality, which was seen as its central legacy from the Enlightenment. More sweepingly still, however, even that legacy was then being fiercely attacked by a miscellaneous group of theorists – ranging from Right to Left, from Behaviourists through Existentialists to Marxists –...

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