Women in the History of Philosophy – Challenging the Canon
Zadar, 11 – 14 July 2022


Núria Sara Boronat: Women pragmatist philosophers

The conventional genealogies of the pragmatist philosophy usually offer the same “white male pantheon” attributing the foundations of the movement to the same set of academic philosophers: William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and Josiah Royce. They were involved not only in the grounding of the new social sciences but also very active in the main causes of the so-called progressive era. But much less attention has also been paid to the women that were in their university settings or social settlements doing similar work. Feminist pragmatists of the present have done a decisive attempt for recovering the essential contribution that women like Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Florence Kelly, Anna Julia Cooper, and Mary Parker Follett have made to both movements, pragmatism, and feminism. Some of these contributions are introduced parallel to the current trends in pragmatist feminism.

Luka Boršić: Renaissance women philosophers on the periphery

In my lecture I will use the example of a woman intellectual from the periphery to show/argue what it takes to “prove” that a Renaissance woman can be considered a philosopher in her own right. My example will be Maruša Gundulić (cca 1557 – ?). In secondary literature she is known as wife of a philosopher and statesman from Dubrovnik, Nikola Gučetić. I will show that if two hiw dialogues, the Dialogue on Beauty (Dialogo della bellezza) and the Dialogue on Love (Dialogo d’amore) from 1581 are read exactly as the writer intended, that is, “in Platonic spirit”, then these texts can be understood as a display of the philosophical thoughts and arguments of the interlocutors, that is Maruša Gundulić (Maria Gondola) and Cvijeta Zuzorić (Fiore Zuzzori). Such an understanding of the text is supported by a feminist approach to the history of philosophy. This hermeneutic key allows us a deeper understanding of the letter-epistle written by Maruša Gundulić in defense of Cvijeta Zuzorić, and in extenso all women, in 1582, and published in 1584 and, in a revised version, in 1585. Finally, using the same hermeneutic key and carefully reading the traces scattered in the text of the Dialogue on Beauty and the Dialogue on Love, we conclude that the role of Maruša Gučetić in these dialogues can be understood as the one of a “female Socrates”. Postulating the distinction between “writer” and “author” based on the standard interpretation of Plato’s early, so-called Socratic dialogues, we see no reason not to suppose that the thoughts and arguments, which Nikola Gučetić wrote in these dialogues as proclaimed by the dialogue character Maruša Gundulić are indeed authored by Maruša Gundulić, the historical person and a woman philosopher.

Ruth Hagengruber: Du Châtelet and Kant – claiming the renewal of philosophy

Kant’s claim expressed in the first edition of his Critique of Pure Reason to have delivered a new, namely transcendental turn in philosophy, as he was able to retrace our cognition to the origin of phenomena, was not accepted in his time as it is today. Eberhard holds that there was nothing new, but all delivered in Leibniz and Wolff; to prove his claim he refers to Du Châtelet’s Institutions. In my lecture I will present some of Du Châtelet’s ideas highlighting its precursory and inspirational influence on Kant which can be seen not only in Kant’s early dissertation but also in the Critique and other later writings. I will also lay out how to understand Du Châtelet’s claim “to penetrate to the origin of phenomena” and to renew philosophy.

Chelsea C. Harry: What can Sappho and Günderrode tell us about the meaning of philosophy?

What is a philosopher, or a philosopHER?  How do they think and express themselves?  What sorts of problems are they interested in?  My lecture begins with the contention that, although the Western philosophical “tradition” and canon seem to answer these questions for us, beginning with perhaps Pythagoras, or maybe Aristotle, they remain open-ended and perennial in nature.  The reasoning behind this proposal challenges the expectation that knowledge is always analytic, quantifiable, intentional, and explicit.  Using Sappho of Lesbos (6th c. BCE) and Karoline von Günderrode (German, early 19th c.) as examples, I work to illustrate that philosophy as a love of wisdom in fact can love many different sorts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  I conclude that philosophy has no bounds of its curiosity, which opens it up to unabashed inclusion and truth in its many ways of being.

Kateryna Karpenko: Feminist environmental philosophy

Contemporaneity has posed many questions to people, forcing them to look at the world in a new way, at values that seemed obvious. Among them, environmental and economic problems, the distribution of roles in society between men and women, and the issue of survival are perhaps the most acute. The philosophical discourse conducted in this context emphasizes the deterioration of the intellectual situation of universality. Socio-cultural reality has acquired postmodern qualities. It has lost its absolute justification for its original principles, its traditional foundations. The mechanism of formation of research approaches has become pluralistic and highly dynamic. In this situation, there is a need for a contextual study of the above problems, which does not ignore their correlation with universal principles. The purpose of this lecture is to identify the interaction between gender justice and ecological issues. Its achievement includes three main tasks: to clarify the meaning of the concepts of “gender justice” and “ecological issues”; to investigate the relevance of the methodological foundations of the study of gender and ecological justice; outline the prospects for the impact of sustainable gender equality on environmental issues and vice versa − environmental justice on gender equality.

Natasha Lushetich: The Art of Transfiguration: Irigaray on Fluids, Malabou on Plasticity

Transfiguration is commonly understood as an entity’s evolution over time, as matter changing form, as a ramification of networks, or as a ‘critical-mass’ shift in scale or direction. Centuries of ingrained post-Enlightenment thought habits are indeed difficult to shrug off. How do we think relations without relata? How do we imagine a world without solids? Bodies without boundaries? Form without matter?
In this talk, I trace Luce Irigaray’s engagement with Heidegger and Lacan and her resultant theory of fluids, formulated against the backdrop of solids and linear developmental trajectories. I further trace Malabou’s more recent engagement with plasticity, formulated against the backdrop of (neuro-) elasticity and stable measurement, via her close reading of Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida. I do so in order to articulate a mode of thought that is at once philosophical, science-historical and political. Situated between aggregate states, objects (actual and objects of thought), and disciplines, this thought is iterative, relational, and enables ‘internal’ transfiguration.

Ana Maskalan: Philosophy and –isms: working through a philosophical anticanon

In my lecture I will deal with the philosophical and social concepts of feminism, nationalism and utopianism, showing the ways in which their meanings intertwine and/or clash, and placing them in the specific social context of the Balkan region. I define these terms as part of the philosophical anticanon since their elaboration is often placed on the margins of the philosophical work, outside the philosophical mainstream, within the philosophies of something or, perhaps more cruelly, the philosophies of nothing. They share this destiny with all those notions that are immersed in sociability, reality and the body, tainted by their exactness and resistance to absolute philosophical abstraction. At the same time, with uncomfortable questions they ask (e.g., How western philosophy defines a man? What place does philosophy leave for social change in the modern world?, etc.), they reveal the dark face of the traditional philosophical thought, drawing attention to the shortcomings of its own hitherto unquestionable canons.

Jil Muller: Émilie du Châtelet and René Descartes

Émilie du Châtelet’s philosophy is often seen as opposed to Cartesianism, and her Institutions de physique are said to derive on the one hand from Leibniz’s and Wolff’s, and on the other from Newton’s principles. She is often seen listed among those opposing Voltaire’s view against Cartesianism, and she seems to be a proponent of the “Causa” Newton. Besides the central question of whether an “anti-Cartesian” is also an opponent of Descartes’ philosophy, the fact remains that du Châtelet devotes an important place to Descartes in her Avant-Propos of the Institutions. Descartes is there described as a modern philosopher who brought light into the darkness of physics or natural theory and who must therefore not be forgotten in the history of philosophy. Without Descartes, du Châtelet says, her own physics would not even be possible. The main aim of this lecture is to work out to what extent du Châtelet is inspired or influenced by Descartes. The Lettre-préface of Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy and the Avant-Propos show some interfaces that underline a reception of Cartesian philosophy in that of du Châtelet. It is also striking that at least the first four chapters of the Institutions reflect the first part of the Principles. Consequently, we will analyse the overlap of vocabulary and metaphors and thus of ideas and concepts.

Ivana Skuhala Karasman: Feminist philosophers in Communism

It is important to take into consideration two main concepts of feminisms. Socialist feminism which emphasizes complete emancipation of women that is achieved through the abolition of economic and cultural sources of women’s oppression. This, according to some, represents the synthesis of the arguments of Marxist feminism about capitalism as a source of oppression of women and the arguments of radical feminism on the role of gender and patriarchy. On the other hand, Marxist feminism starts from the assumption that the abolition of capitalism as a socio-economic system is the only way women as sex can relieve oppression. Marxist feminists see gender inequality as a consequence of the capitalist mode of production.

Robin Wang: Female Daoist Critique: Cognitive Traps and Embodied Intellectual Virtues

In a general sense, throughout much of human history and across many cultures, the masculine or strong has been associated with power, control, and dominance, whereas the feminine or supple has been associated with weakness, submissiveness and flaw. Daoist philosophy inverts the values of these aspects, pointing out the power of the feminine, yielding, flexibility and pliancy. Traditionally, however, that inversion went against mainstream views, particularly those of the Confucians who dominated social and political institutions. The Daoist philosophy started a full-fledged campaign to put greater pressure on the sages’ leadership ability, moral character, and political actions to against aggregation. This calling rippled through the fabric of Chinese intellectual history and culture. This lecture will present a female Daoist theory and practice from past to present to explain what are the problems of the rigid control and how epistemic values, such as intellectual humility, openness, receptivity and resilience, are all significant embodiments of the body cultivation.

Jure Zovko: Influence of Women on German Early Romanticism

Rarely has a cultural movement been so strongly and intensively influenced by women as the German Early Romanticism. In my contribution, I would like to limit myself to the early Romanticism from the period of the journal Athenäum (1798-1801). The prominent personalities of early Romanticism Friedrich Schlegel, his brother August Wilhelm Schlegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling were under the enormous influence of their life partners Caroline Michaelis-Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, Dorothea Mendelssohn-Veit-Schlegel. In the salons of the Jewish romanticists Rahel Levin-Varnhagen von Ense and Henriette Julie Herz, philosophical conversations were held at a high level, the so-called romantic “Symphilosophein”. In this circle, important personalities of the time met to discuss current affairs. In the spirit of the French Revolution, the women of the early Romantic period strove for equal rights and equality for women. In order to realize the ideal of “symphilosophizing” with the Platonic concept of erōs, Friedrich Schlegel decided to write an unusual Romantic novella, Lucinde, without a narrative “plot,” with strong autobiographical elements and an unusual poetic reflection on life, love, the art of living, and the Romantic way of life.

Marie-Élise Zovko: Anne Conway’s philosophical system and her independence of thought

What specific characteristics of Anne Conway’s (1631-1679) life and thought distinguish her as an independent thinker and philosopher in her own right? In this course, we explore Conway’s relationship to Henry More (1614-1687), her mentor and life-long friend, and their contrasting reception and transformation of Platonist philosophy and kabbalistic traditions as mediated through their association with Francis Mercury van Helmont (1614–1698) and Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (1636-89), as well as the sources of their Platonizing interpretation of kabbalah Abraham Cohen Herrera (1570? – 1635), Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), and Jacob Böhme (1575-1624). Differences between More’s and Conway’s reception of “Behmenism” and “Spinozism” illuminate the distinct characters of their philosophical standpoints – and reasons for Conway’s greater affinity to Spinoza. The “great elective kinship” between More and Platonist philosophy cannot deflect attention from the glaring opposition between More’s orthodox Christian theism and the much more radical implementation of Platonism in Spinoza’s philosophical approach. Conway, like More, saw in Spinoza one of her greatest adversaries, yet her systematic approach follows closely on Spinoza. Careful analysis of More’s and Conway’s critique of Spinozism and “Behmenism” reveals the reasons for similarities and differences in their understanding of God, nature, and human nature.