Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Philosophy by Women

Today's post is by Elly Vintiadis. She introduces her new book, Philosophy by Women: 22 Philosophers Reflect on Philosophy and Its Value (Routledge, 2020).
A couple of summers ago I was reading something (I don’t remember what) and it struck me that most people have no idea what philosophy is and that they only think of old white guys when they think about philosophers. So I decided that I would put together a book of essays on the nature and value of philosophy written exclusively by women in the field of philosophy. I wanted it to be a book about philosophy so that readers can get a better idea of what it is we do and why it is important, while at the same time, without making a fuss about it (I didn’t even want the word “women” in the title), registering in peoples’ minds that there are women doing philosophy and doing it well. At a time when the usefulness of philosophy, and the humanities in general, is being questioned and when the voices of women are being increasingly heard around the world, a book such as this seemed to be particularly timely. 

To my amazement, though, I found it quite difficult to find a publisher. I had to explain why the contributors are all women and to show what would be produced that was worth producing, if only women wrote in the book – as if our voices ceased to be philosophers’ voices but had to be women’s voices and as if women would necessarily have another point of view, as a group, instead of our voices being the individual points of view taken by philosophers. I thought that was strange, given that I am sure no one asked such questions for all the anthologies over the years that have been written exclusively by male contributors. But eventually, after trying a number of publishers, Routledge took up the book and the result is an anthology of essays by a rather diverse group of philosophers, with different interests and different writing styles. 

By offering essays on the nature of philosophy and its value, this volume aims to contribute to a move towards philosophy reaching outward, engaging with the world it is a philosophy of. Through short and accessible essays the contributors of this book introduce people outside our field to the work that philosophers actually do, and to those aspects of it that can be relevant in our everyday life. At the same time though, in the essays in this collection philosophers are looking inward, to philosophy itself. 

By trying to explain what philosophy is some essays include criticism of contemporary academic philosophy. Such a critical view that challenges the status quo is essential for the evolution of any discipline that does not want to remain stagnant and especially for a discipline like philosophy that requires constant self-examination. So this is a book with a philosophical message: that more inclusivity would be good for philosophy because inclusivity is not only about what people enter in philosophy, it is also about the ideas and perspectives that are allowed to be heard. But it also has a political message: that inclusivity in philosophy is also a matter of justice. 

By putting together a book composed only of texts by women in philosophy, the aim is to show what is actually the case (that there are many women working in philosophy) while also providing counter-stereotypical examples that can also serve as role models, and thus show what is possible, hopefully motivating more women to pursue goals that they might otherwise have shied away from. Hopefully, also, this book will provide new readings in meta-philosophy; after all, the world around us is constantly changing and philosophy is too but we are stuck reading the same things by the same group of people.