BEING A HUMAN BEING without being A PART OF HUMAN HISTORY?

It was in 1987 when Mary Ellen Waithe published the first volume of her HISTORY OF WOMEN PHILOSOPHERS, where she presented a rich philosophical tradition from Antiquity onwards. It was her statement in regard to Diotima, characterized as philosophical teacher of Socrates in the Platonic dialogue, which was ground-breaking.

BEING A HUMAN BEING without being A PART OF HUMAN HISTORY?

By Ruth Hagengruber, Mary Ellen Waithe and Gianni Paganini

Link to the blog entry: https://www.springer.com/gp/campaigns/world-congress-of-philosophy/women-philosophers-blog

It was in 1987 when Mary Ellen Waithe published the first volume of her HISTORY OF WOMEN PHILOSOPHERS, where she presented a rich philosophical tradition from Antiquity onwards. It was her statement in regard to Diotima, characterized as philosophical teacher of Socrates in the Platonic dialogue, which was ground-breaking. Against the conventional narratives of traditional teaching, Waithe argued we may assume Diotima was a real person and not only a fictious character of Plato’s invention. This re-interpretation of a quite old – but not outdated – narrative confirmed a long women’s tradition that began at the very start of European Socratic philosophy.

Ruth Hagengruber had finished her Master’s degree years earlier on Diotima’s role in Plato’s Dialogue and found her intuitions confirmed by Waithe’s evidence. We were convinced that the history of philosophy had been presented to us only as half of what it really was: by half of humanity.

Gianni Paganini has promoted scholarship and teaching of women’s contributions to philosophy throughout Italy and supported the organizing of a round table discussion about women philosophers at this year’s World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing. He is especially interested in 17th and 18th c. women philosophers: Elisabeth of Bohemia and Emilie Du Châtelet.

We three share the conviction that the history, how it was and still often is presented to us, has decisive deficiencies. Traditional narratives support the power imbalances that still exist in science, and to a greater degree, in philosophy. The narratives of history present narrow perspectives and often dogmatic accounts of heritage – as are the histories of scientific and philosophical ideas written only by males.

With the philosopher/scientist Emilie Du Chatelet, we find a representative who expressed similar criticism more than two hundred years ago. Du Châtelet accepted neither the history as it was told nor the methodology that was based on idolization of “the male” and / or national pride. Patriotism, patriarchalism and similarly narrow interests may have had their place in culture, but they should have no place in philosophy and science.  They are two of the greatest contemporary evils. They undermine any reliability of knowledge.  As Du Chatelet noted “Each philosopher sees something and no one sees everything.” In philosophy and science, patriotism and patriarchalism must recede to the background as she stated: even “in Aristotle and Newton, you find ideas so sound beneath the greatest absurdities”. Du Châtelet’s achievements set the prejudices of her time reeling. Her insights remain surprisingly contemporary.

It is a powerful myth of cultural history, which states that women have not contributed much to it. Various disciplines are working hard to rectify this pervasive myth, to dismantle it as such and confront it with the reality of the historical record. The women philosophers and scientists of the present century did not appear from nowhere like a dea ex machina. Rather, the women scientists and philosophers of today are part of a millennia-long tradition. From Diotima to Du Chatelet, from Hypatia to Hildegard, from Elisabeth of Bohemia and Cavendish to Curie, we trace back our scientific and philosophic traditions and celebrate the irrefutable evidence that women philosophers and scientists have always made outstanding contributions. We plan more than a dozen volumes with Springer: Women Philosophers and Scientists. Our new histories of philosophy and science serve historical completeness and accuracy.  But most importantly, they present a more compete vision of what it is to be human.

You can find out more about the Women Philosophers and Scientists book series here.

About the Authors

Ruth Hagengruber © SpringerRuth Hagengruber received her PhD in Philosophy and the History of Natural sciences at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. Currently she is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Paderborn University and director of the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists http://historyofwomenphilosophers.org , Europe’s first center dedicated to the study of women philosophers and scientists that attracts world-renowned scholars.

Ruth’s research interest  specialize in the history of philosophy and science, particularly on Émilie Du Châtelet (EMILIE DU CHÂTELET BETWEEN LEIBNIZ AND NEWTON). She engages in the research of women in the history of Economics. Measuring the Value of Women: A Feminist Analysis of Economic Categories and Thought, Pages 171-183 in: 2016 Meta-Philosophical Reflection on Feminist Philosophies of Science. Editors: Amoretti, Maria Cristina, Vassallo, Nicla (Eds.)

 

Mary Ellen Waithe. © SpringerProfessor Mary Ellen Waithe, the author of the four volume HISTORY OF WOMEN PHILOSOPHERS is the head advisor of the Centre. Mary Ellen Waithe is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, past Chair of the Department of Philosophy & Comparative Religion, and former Director of the University’s Program in Women’s Studies at Cleveland State University and author of nearly fifty articles and book chapters about women philosophers from antiquity through the twentieth century. Mary Ellen Waithe is also President of the Society for the Study of Women Philosophers http://www.sswp.org/, editor of the APA blog: “Revisiting the Canon” Board member of the

International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPh) and member of the International Network of Women Philosophers, established by UNESCO.

 

Gianni Paganini © SpringerGianni Paganini, Professor of History of Philosophy at Piedmont University and visiting fellow at the renowned Paris Institute for Advanced Study, is specialized in early modern philosophy, particularly in history of skepticism, Thomas Hobbes, philosophical Libertinism, and clandestine philosophy. He leads the national research group on philosophy from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, grouping five different universities (Piedmont, Rome 3, Urbino, Siena, and Naples) and won the prize for philosophy given by the Accademia dei Lincei (2011). Professor Paganini’s recent monograph “Skepsis. Le débat des modernes sur le scepticisme” (Paris, Vrin, 2008) was distinguished by the Prix La Bruyère 2009 (Littérature et Philosophie) of the Académie Française. http://www.academie-francaise.fr/prix-la-bruyere.

Back to top