HISTORY OF WESTERN WOMEN PHILOSOPHERS

SPRING, 2003

Macalester College

KAREN J. WARREN

Office:                         OM103
Office Phone:             (651) 696-6172
Office Hours:             TTh 2:30-4:00, and by appointment

 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Until fairly recently, Western philosophy, like so many academic disciplines, has been noteworthy for the absence or invisibility of women. The recovery of women, women-authored texts, and women's voices in all fields of philosophy has been a vital and often difficult project in philosophy. This recovery project not only requires that important archival work be done in order to identify women philosophers; it also requires that important questions for philosophy be addressed: e.g., What is philosophy? What is the history of philosophy? How does the inclusion of women's voices/thoughts/work change one's understanding of the very nature of Western philosophy (e.g., its basic assumptions, methodologies, the questions asked, the areas of inquiry, the nature of philosophy)?

This course engages in this recovery project by asking and learning about the women philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. It focuses on selected texts by or about women philosophers from four historical time periods:

600 BC-500 AD: Ancient Philosophy
500-1600: Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment Philosophy
1600 -1900: Modern Philosophy
1900-Present: Contemporary Philosophy

Not only will we examine what is said by and about them; we will also discuss how the inclusion of women and women's voices/work fits affects one's understanding of the nature of Western philosophy-it's basic assumptions, methodology, self-concept, and key fields (e.g., ethics and social philosophy, epistemology and metaphysics, logic, history of philosophy, philosophies of religion, mind, language and art).

COURSE OBJECTIVES

There are three main objectives of the course:

(1) To engage students in the recovery project of this class, namely the identification, understanding, and appreciation of women in the history of Western philosophy;

(2) To increase student understanding and appreciation of the historical, social, cultural, intellectual, and scientific dimensions of philosophical thinking;

(3) To engender critical thinking and writing about the people, topics, and philosophical positions addressed in class.

CLASS FORMAT

This course will be conducted as a seminar. Typically, on Tuesdays, the instructor will present both biographical information on specific women philosophers and terminological or philosophical concepts, issues, positions and arguments relevant to the readings assigned for that day. On Thursdays, one student will facilitate a class discussion of the topics covered by the readings.

STUDENT RESPONSIBILITIES

There are four categories of student responsibilities:

(1) Attendance. Each student is expected to attend class regularly, to read all assigned materials on time, and to participate in in-class discussions. Students may miss no more than three classes during the semester. (More than three unexcused absences will result in a lowering of the student's grade.)

(2) Critical Thinking Essays. Each student will submit a two-three page critical thinking essay in class on the Tuesday of each week on the reading for that week, for a total of 10 essays. This brief essay will answer three questions:

  1. What is the main thesis in the reading?
  2. What are the main reasons given for this thesis (i.e., what is the main argument)?
  3. Take a stand: Do you agree with the position taken in the reading? Why or why not?

(3) On-Line Discussion. Each student must participate on-line in our class web page discussion (through Nicenet) two different days each week.

(4) Final Project: A Web Page. For their final project, each student is expected to create a web page on one of the following women philosophers: Diotima, Makrina of Neocaesaria, Hildegard of Bingen, Heloise, Princess Elisabeth, Catherine Macauley, Mary Astell, Anne Conway, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Sommerville, Jane Addams, Harriet Taylor Mill, Hannah Arendt, andElizabeth Anscombe. For those who have never designed web pages before or, even if they have, would like assistance in designing this web page, Karen Warren and Academic Information Associate Michael Nelson (x6761, OM 212) of Macalester CIT (Computing & Information Technology) will offer instruction and semester-long assistance in designing and developing your web page.

Students will present on-line their final web-page projects in class during the last week of the semester. They will then revise and edit their web pages, submitting the final version during the final exam period. Karen Warren will then link each web page to her own web page (http://www.macalester.edu/warren), the American Philosophical Association (APA) Teaching Project web page, and the on-line version of the anthology Gendering Western Philosophy, ed. Karen J. Warren (Prentice-Hall, 2003).

TEXTS

1. As a seminar, this course is reading-intensive. The four required books for the course are:

Presenting Women Philosophers, eds. Cecile T. Tougas and Sara Ebenreck
Rediscovering Women Philosophers, Catherine Villanueva Gardner Women Philosophers, ed. Mary Warnock
Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period, ed. Margaret Atherton

2. There are five texts that are recommended as useful resources for the course, particularly for the development of the web pages on individual woman philosophers:

The Concept of Woman, Sister Prudence Allen
A History of Women Philosophers: 4 volumes, ed. Mary Ellen Waithe
Hypatia's Heritage: A History of Women in Science from Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Alic
The Neglected Canon: Nine Women Philosopher, First to the Twentieth Century, ed. Therese Boos Dykeman
Women Philosophers: A Bio-Critical Source Book, Ethel M. Kersey

3. In addition, various class lecture notes, articles, and assigned web sites will be used as "texts" for the course. For example, since segments of the course will take place on-line, the "texts" for the course will also include key electronic texts:

  • Philosophical writings by the women philosophers and their contemporaries
  • Commentaries on the women philosophers
  • Web pages for each women philosopher we study
  • Bibliographies
  • Links to other sites

4. Many of the class activities require frequent weekly use of the class web site. The "Women in the History of Philosophy" class web site is located at:

hppt://www.nicenet.org

You will need to use the class key to log on to Nicenet. (The class key will be given to you the first day of class.) Our class web page has several important features: The instructor's class lecture notes for each week's reading and discussion (under "Documents"); the syllabus and any relevant campus and community events, activities, lectures (under "Schedule"); links to relevant web sites (under "Link Sharing"); weekly on-line discussions by class members (under "Conferencing"); list of class members with e-mail and phone information (under "Messages").

5. Each student will also be taught to use the software package Dreamweaver or Netscape Composer, in order to design a web page on one woman philosopher.

GRADING

Class Attendance (3 absences permitted)

 

Critical Thinking Essays (10)

50%

On-line discussion

10%

Final Web Page

40%

Welcome to this new class!

 

Link to syllabus forHistory of Western Women Philosophers.

Link to time line ofMen and Women Philosophers in the Western tradition.

Link to time line ofScience, Mathematics, Culture, and Art in the Western tradition.

Link to general bibliographies forHistory of Western Women Philosophers

Link to bibliographies of particular women in the course,History of Western Women Philosophers

Link to relevant philosophy websites forHistory of Western Women Philosophers

Return to Karen J. Warren's course index.

Return to Karen J. Warren's home page.