Imagine a philosopher. Have you ever thought of an old man with a gray beard? Rebecca Paxton and Lisa Whiting pointed out that it’s not just a cliché, it’s also reflected in the literature. Paxton is doing research on political philosophy at Oxford University, and Whiting is a professor of political science. In standard philosophical works, I have encountered few or no women at all. Through their book, Buxton and Whiting paint an opposite picture. Because there have been philosophers and there still are, even if they do not receive the same appreciation as their male colleagues.
The women also wrote 20 portraits of the great thinkers assembled at work. Chronologically, from antiquity to today, they introduce women philosophers. These include such well-known names as Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir and Angela Davis. In addition to the great Western thinkers, you also learn something about philosophical currents from other cultures, for example about the thinker Pan Zhao from ancient China, or about contemporary philosophers such as Sophie Bussid Ollwool, representative of Nigerian Yoruba philosophy.
A mixture of eras, cultures, schools of thought and the circles from which the philosophers came makes the text come alive. It fits with the fact that image authors – often university lecturers themselves – write quite differently. Some texts detail the course of life, while others focus on theories and schools of thought. This makes the set as colorful and bright as a book cover.
Social grievance plumber
What is the function of philosophy? In an article about ethicist Mary Midgley, who died in 2018, you’ll find a surprising everyday answer. In one of her books, she compared philosophy to the hookah system. Both are indispensable structures. Especially when grievances become apparent, it is the philosopher’s job to open up the floor like a plumber and go after flawed basic concepts.
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