Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael WisemanMar 10, 2022
How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life
Double Day 2022
What are the proper things for a philosopher to worry about? And who should be able to worry about them? These two questions, raised in the context of the disruptions and horrors of World War II, animate Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life (Doubleday, 2022). The book interweaves the biographies and philosophies of Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch, who met as students at Oxford as World War II left the old men, refugees, women, and conscientious objectors behind to bloom intellectually while most of the men were away. Each argued, in her own way, for a view of human life as necessarily concerned with metaphysical issues and moral approaches that then-ascendant logical positivism and ordinary language philosophy tried to dismiss as mere nonsense. Authors Clare Mac Cumhaill (assistant professor of philosophy at Durham University) and Rachael Wiseman (senior lecturer in philosophy at University of Liverpool) bring Anscombe, Foot, Midgley, and Murdoch to life in this highly readable account, sparked by a series of interviews with the elderly Midgley as the last survivor of the group.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.