What is Philosophy For?

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Anyone who’s interested in thinking ought to read Mary Midgley’s last book, What is Philosophy For? I just finished the book last night and felt the need to share it since it investigates pertinent issues of our time while calling for more people to engage with philosophical thinking. Midgley address head on the notion that computers will inevitable control our lives and calls into question the role that science has taken in our society. Modern science is a fine way to think of the world around us; however, we need to be able to question it and not limit ourselves to just one way of knowing.

Mary Midgley was a philosopher at the University of Newcastle who wrote on a wide range of topics: animal ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, moral philosophy. She was one of the philosophers who studied ‘Greats’ at Oxford during the Second World War, with the other members of what’s come to be known as the ‘Oxford four’: Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot, and Elizabeth Anscombe. Mary Warnock was also there at the same time, but a few years ahead of them.

This was a really interesting time for women studying philosophy at Oxford because so many men were away. The men that were left were elderly professors or conscientious objectors and so Midgley, Murdoch, Foot and Anscombe were left with slightly more old-school philosophy professors who were interested in Plato and Aristotle and a traditional form of the history of philosophy.

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