Philosophy: Its Practice and Practitioners


We are delighted to announce an upcoming series of talks entitled ‘Philosophy: Its Practice and Practitioners’ scheduled for this Michaelmas Term, jointly organized by Philiminality Oxford and the Oxford Philosophy Faculty’s Equality and Diversity Representative, Sebastian Sanchez-Schilling. The aim of the talk series is to explore the link between the practice, methods and objects of professional philosophy and the identity and socio-political situation of its practitioners. Why is it fairly common for philosophers to downplay attention to social situations? Should this surprise us? Is it true that what is meant by philosophy, and how it is approached, is dependent on who gets to do philosophy, and where? Can philosophy be inclusive? What kind of change in its practice, methods and institutions would be required?

Ellie Robson is a CHASE funded Doctoral Research at Birkbeck, University of London (2019-2022). She completed both her BA and MA at Durham University (2015-2018) under the supervision of Dr Clare MacCumhaill. Ellie’s PhD thesis is the contextual revival and analysis of Mary Midgley’s moral philosophy – most specifically, Midgley’s moral naturalism. Her Twitter is @philosophellie.

Abstract: The history of philosophy is a history of men talking to men, about other men. Our answer to the question ‘What is philosophy for?’ has been shaped by this historical narrative. My talk explores an answer to this question posed by the woman philosopher Mary Midgley. Midgley argued that philosophy is a necessity, not a luxury. She described it as ‘something we are doing all the time, a continuous, necessary background activity which is likely to go badly if we don’t attend to it’ (2018:81). These insights of Midgley’s have been systematically underappreciated and overlooked within the academic discipline of philosophy. My talk questions the connection between Midgley as a philosophical practitioner, and her conception of philosophy as a practise. I will ask whether and to what extent being a minority in philosophy impacted the way Midgley conceived of the practise of philosophy. And further, how our accepted practise of the history of philosophy sustains and perpetuate the neglect of women philosophers (and other minorities). Overall, our standard story of men, talking to men about men, needs disrupting to include the (her)stories of overlooked philosophers. And doing so might change our conception of philosophical practise itself.

The talk will be both in-person and online. To register and receive Zoom details, please complete this form.

If you have any questions, feel free to email or Philiminality

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