Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Philosophy for Girls: An Invitation to the Life of Thought

Today's post is by Melissa M. Shew and Kimberly K. Garchar. They present their new book, Philosophy for Girls: An Invitation to the Life of Thought (OUP 2020).

Despite social and institutional improvements, women and girls are routinely discouraged from full participation in intellectual and civic life. Kamala Harris’s recent refrain of “I’m speaking, I’m speaking” in a debate against Vice President Mike Pence evidences the ongoing challenge that women face in having their voices--and therefore their ideas--truly heard.

This disrespect of women’s intellectual expertise occurs in nearly all aspects of our lives, so academic philosophy is no different. The chronic erasure of women’s voices in content, meager representation in philosophy syllabi, persistence of all-male panels in philosophy, and dominance in faculty meetings evidence the gender disparity in education.

Melissa M. Shew

This gap is harmful not just to women who are unable to fulfill their philosophical potential as a result of biases and stereotypes but also to the field of philosophy itself insofar as the philosophical potential of women remains untapped. Some of the best work remains unexplored and unpublished. More fundamentally, girls do not see their experiences represented, analyzed, and addressed in academic philosophy, and young women are not culturally encouraged to think philosophically about their lives.

This revolutionary book aims to address this gender disparity, both in academic philosophy and the wider world. It invites and encourages girls and young women to think broadly, creatively, and critically about a host of enduring questions from the nature of autonomy and identity to ways to respond to an unjust world. Philosophy for Girls empowers young people intellectually and encourages them to find the joys of hard thinking; readers are thereby encouraged to pursue an examined life and live philosophically. We insist that girls have a right to intellectual conversations from which they have largely been excluded.

Kimberly K. Garchar

The collected volume of vibrant and clear but simultaneously rigorous essays by women philosophers evidences that women are indeed outstanding philosophers and that young women have a great capacity for philosophical thinking. The book cites nearly only women, and each chapter opens with an anecdote about a girl or woman from mythology, science, literature, or history.

Particular pathways for intellectual exploration are outlined in the book’s Introduction, with the hope and expectation that those pathways will become readers’ own pathways and that they will enter into conversation with others about topics in the book. This book, then, serves as an overdue correction to the hundreds of anthologies that supposedly represent the life of thought, but that nonetheless remain almost exclusively male-dominated. Consequently, this book serves as a small contribution to larger movements of equity and inclusion in intellectual life as a whole so that all are affirmed in their capacities as knowers.

The book thus has both epistemic and ethical goals: We want girls to embrace their existence as thinking agents and make the world better in the process. Simultaneously, we aim to provide avenues for young women to enter the field of philosophy through the work of women scholars and prose that explicitly includes young women in its enduring questions.

In light of the current climate for women in the profession as well as in our world, this book is a significant contribution to girls’ philosophical inquiry, both formally and informally. As such, this book is timely and urgent though it grapples with enduring questions of the human condition.

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