Founding Mothers: Women in the History of Early Analytic Philosophy

Founding Mothers: Women in the History of Early Analytic Philosophy
6 September 2017, 12.00pm - 5.30pm
Conference / Symposium
Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Analytic philosophy, like philosophy generally, is male-dominated. It is presumed that it has always been that way. Scholarly investigations of its origins present us with a wholly male pantheon of `founding fathers' (Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein) and `grandfathers' (Frege) of analytic philosophy. Philosophers assume that this is because women have made no signi_cant contributions to early analytic philosophy, that there were no founding mothers or grandmothers. Female analytic philosophers are thought not have come along until the 1950s, when Anscombe and Foot arrived on the scene. Tradition has it that women naturally gravitate towards the normative, and their absence from the early analytic canon is due to normative philosophy not being central to the original project, which developed around Frege's polyadic logic, Moore's realism, and Russell and Wittgenstein's logical atomism. But the historical record does not bear this out. Female names occur with some regularity, for example, in early issues of Mind and the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, and records of the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club. Many of them worked on logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science and mathematics. Women were a minority within early analytic philosophy | as they were in British academic life of the period generally | but by no means absent. This conference aims to make space for female philosophers within the early analytic pantheon, to bring their work and contributions to the attention of contemporary philosophers and historians of analytic philosophy, and to diagnose some of the causes of the neglect and marginalisation of women's works by subsequent generations and historians of analytic philosophy.


Among the female philosophers discussed are Constance Jones (1848-1922), Susan Stebbing (1885-1943), DorothyWrinch (1894-1976), Helen Knight (1899-1984), Dorothy Emmet (1904-2000), Margaret MacDonald (1907-1956), Margaret Masterman (1910-1986), and Iris Murdoch (1919-1999). The papers presented put forward several complementary hypotheses for the obscuring of women's writing and their ideas from the canonical history. Firstly, women's work has been neglected due to sexist attitudes. Female philosophers' publications were frequently ignored or belittled, and not given credit for originality, by their male contemporaries. This in turn led to subsequent generations assuming that there were no major philosophical contributions to be found in the work of female early analytic philosophers. Secondly, several female philosophers' contributions are hidden in co-authored publications where they are not acknowledged as co-authors or editors, in textbooks, or in unpublished manuscripts. Thirdly, many female philosophers published more rarely than their male counterparts, often being put in the position of concentrating on teaching or administrative duties. As research-intensive jobs accessible to women were scarce, and women's colleges short of funds and anxious to support their students, the resources of many female philosophers were stretched. Lastly, in some cases female philosophers' primary concerns were unpopular with majority-male audiences.


12.00-12.15 Coffee and Welcome

12.15-1.00 Frederique Janssen-Lauret (Manchester) `Founding Mothers and Grandmothers of Analytic Philosophy: from Constance Jones to Susan Stebbing'

1.00-2.00 Lunch

2.00-2.45 Sean Crawford (Manchester): `Dorothy Wrinch on Judgement'

2.45-3.30 Sophia Connell (Birkbeck) `Analytic Women: Female Philosophers on Logic, Language, and Metaphysics in Cambridge 1890-1950'

3.30-4.00 Tea

4.00-4.45 Stacie Friend (Birkbeck) `Female Early Analytic Philosophers on Fiction'

4.45-5.30 Paula Satne (Manchester) `Iris Murdoch and Analytic Philosophy'

6.00-ish: Conference Dinner

Organised by Frederique Janssen-Lauret (Manchester)


Institute of Philsophy
020 7664 4865