Rachael Wiseman

Metaphysical Animals
  • Metaphysical Animals

    *Picked as a Guardian read for summer 2022*

    [A] splendidly entertaining book, fizzing with character and incident' Spectator

    'Invigorating... told with terrific fluency and humour' Sunday Times

    'In philosophy, one must start from scratch - & it takes a very long time to reach scratch'

    Iris Murdoch, Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe were philosophy students at Oxford during the Second World War when most male undergraduates (and many tutors) were conscripted. Taught by refugee scholars, women and conscientious objectors, the four friends developed a philosophy that could respond to the war's darkest revelations.

    How, they asked, do we find our way through the devastation of what we have created? Not even the great thinkers of the past or the logical innovators and Existentialists of the early twentieth century could make sense of this new human reality. So, in search of an answer, the four friends set out to bring philosophy back to life.

    Written with expertise and flair, Metaphysical Animals is a vivid blend of philosophy and recovered history - bringing back the women who shared ideas, as well as sofas, shoes and even lovers. Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman show how from the disorder and despair of the war, four brilliant friends reinvigorated philosophy and created a way of ethical thinking that remains with us today.

Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman are philosophy lecturers and friends. Mac Cumhaill is an expert in the philosophy of perception and aesthetics at Durham University; Wiseman lectures at Liverpool University and is a recognised authority on the work of Elizabeth Anscombe. Their interest in the group of philosophers in this book sprang from a concern about their students: why were so many brilliant female fledgling philosophers leaving the discipline? Clare and Rachael began telling the story of Iris Murdoch, Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe to inspire the next generation. Mac Cumhaill and Wiseman are the co-directors of www.womeninparenthesis.co.uk, a pioneering scholarly project that focuses attention on the four women and makes the case for analytic philosophy's first all-female philosophical school. They live in Newcastle, the city to which Mary Midgley moved in 1951. In the final years of her life Clare and Rachael became good friends with Mary. When she died, aged 99, they were inspired to tell this story.

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