SIR – Instead of descending to the level of trading personal insults, it might be more beneficial to outline why I felt so strongly about this issue that I took the time to respond to Mr Sullivan in the first place.
At the West Cork Philosophical Society, we choose a theme for each season and this season just passed, our topic was ‘Women Thinkers’. To give some examples, Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792, wrote The Vindication of the Rights of Women in which she argued that women were not, as was assumed at the time, intellectually inferior to men. She argued that women ought to be educated and that this would allow both women and men to flourish and the whole of society would benefit as a result. Despite being one of the most important Enlightenment thinkers Mary Wollstonecraft does not appear on any standard philosophy course.
Anne Conway’s work, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, was published anonymously in 1690. A refutation of Descartes’ mind-body split, she held that all ‘matter’ is both living and Divine. Her work ‘anticipates’ that of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - his own work patently echoes Conway’s Monadology.
However, as the Stanford Encyclopaedia states, ‘Although she was unusual as a female philosopher of the seventeenth century by virtue of the fact that her philosophy achieved publication, the anonymity of her work has ensured that she has suffered the same neglect that has been the lot of most pre-modern female philosophers.’
Sor Juana, Hildegard of Bingen, Ayn Rand, Edith Stein, Sarah Kofman, Ruth Millikan, Simone Weil, described by Albert Camus as ‘the only great spirit of our times,’ Judith Butler, Julia Kristeve, Rosa Luxemburg, Sylvia Federici, Susan Bordo, Hannah Arendt- has anyone heard of these women philosophers?
The attitudes that fuelled slavery still linger as do the attitudes that regarded women as inferior to men.
In the wake of hurricane Ophelia, the ‘me too’ campaign rocked society in the midst our season. I think that a person would have to be made of stone not to be moved by the accounts given not only by celebrities, but by neighbours, partners, sisters, friends about the extent of misogyny still present in society.
A veil of silence was lifted. I personally felt a great sense of the injustice to which women have been subjected. I think that was shared by a lot of women.
So it was that I read the original letter by Mr Sullivan suggesting that these women are all crazy ‘feminists’ speaking out to falsely accuse men because they are ‘men-haters’.
I certainly do not hate men as Mr Sullivan suggests and neither am I tarring all men with the same brush.
I can’t help but wonder though, having looked at these women thinkers, if women had been educated and included in the planning and organising of society from the outset, what sort of world would it be?
From January, our topic of choice for the Philosophical Society is power.
All are welcome, Mr Sullivan included,