Eroticism and Philosophy

How does the concept of love relate to the history of women philosophers? Find out from Ruth E. Hagengruber, Director of the Center.

The concept of love, as presented by Diotima, inspired many intellectuals in this period. Tullia d’Aragona’s Dialogue on the infinity of love is part of a prolific series of essays on love and served as a model for many of the female philosophers to come in the next centuries. The Platonic females became a stable part of European culture, and countlessly remembered foremothers for Marinella, Marie de Gournay, Emilie Du Châtelet, Laura Bassi and many others.

Hagengruber, Ruth Edith: The Stolen History. Retrieving the History of Women Philosophers and its Methodical Implications, 43-64 in: Thorgeisdottier, Sigrid and Hagengruber, Ruth E. (2020). Methodological Reflections on Women’s Contribution and Influence in the History of Philosophy. Springer, 2020.

Plato’s Symposium introduces the wise Diotima, a female teacher of Socrates who taught the young Socrates the art of love and fruitful creation, starting the path to eternity and beauty by giving birth. Marsilio Ficino’s translation and commentary of Plato’s Symposium generated a prolific production of treatises on the role and function of love, which was taken up by women, for example by Tullia d’Aragona (1501/5–1556). Taking her lead from Diotima, Tullia d’Aragona defends female desire as a starting point for meta-physical ascendance. Physical love is no longer vulgar. From then to the eighteenth century, love remains the abstract notion for discussing transcendence of the corporeal world to the world of spirit and eternity.

Ruth Hagengruber & Sarah Hutton (2019) Introduction, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 27:4, 673-683, DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2019.

As women were excluded from intellectual tradition, experience became an important category to rebut the claims against them. Intellectual women of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are vivid representatives of different traditions, partly defending the rationalist stance, claiming equality based on the equality of mind and in God, despite the diversity of bodies, such as Marie de Gournay, Anne Conway, Mary Astell, up to Luise Gottsched , as well as those who established their epistemic account from experience driven sensations, starting with Tullia D’Aragona’s defense of physical love, Lady Masham’s attack against Malebranche’s vision of God, or Cavendish’s materialist approach defending a vitalist mind/body monism. Women’s intellectual participation in this debate has to be re-evaluated.

Ruth Hagengruber: Women in Early Modern Philosophy and Science. In: Women in Philosophy and Science, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences, ed by D. Jalobeanu and Ch.T. Wolfe.

Ruth E. Hagengruber, Director of the Center for the History of Women Philosophers, will speak about Diotima and the history of philosophy at the IV Eroticism and Philosophy online conference.


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