The Women Are Up to Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics by Benjamin J.B. Lipscomb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A fascinating book! I was fully engaged throughout listening to it. The author does a good job, I think, of balancing the philosophical and the biographical. And the philosophical is handled well: I am familiar with Foot and Anscombe’s work and I don’t think there were any egregious errors or missteps. Moreover, I think a reader not as familiar would be able to get a handle on the ideas as discussed here.
While I knew that Foot and Anscombe were associates, I had no idea the depth and intimacy of the relationships between the four women on which the book focuses: Philippa Foot, G.E.M. Anscombe, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch. That these women were not only at Oxford around the same time, but were friends and intellectual interlocuters sort of blew my mind. A convergence of brilliance and ability like one rarely sees. The author details their friendships, but also the ways in which they intellectually influenced each other.
I am most familiar with Foot, having read much of work of the years. I have read little of Anscombe outside of the few works in moral philosophy she wrote. I was familiar with Murdoch, though never really read any of her work. And Midgley, I was only vaguely aware of the name. However, after reading this work, I ordered Midgley’s Beast and Man and hope to get to it sooner rather than later. She sounds like she pulls together many of the insights of Foot and the others in some promising ways.
I was also fascinated by the intellectual life of Oxford at this time. First, the depth of the education these women received is amazing – I am so jealous! What it took to get into Oxford and then proceed through successfully sounds incredibly challenging but also rewarding. Second, the seriousness with which intellectual life was treated came through and also makes me jealous!
These thinkers and their ideas should be more front and center in the philosophical world. They still are on the margins, but their insights continue to inspire and influence.
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