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Lead book review

The women who challenged a stale, male philosophy

Kathleen Stock describes how four women undergraduates in 1940s Oxford challenged an arid, modish philosophy

29 January 2022

9:00 AM

29 January 2022

9:00 AM

Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life Clare Mac Cumhaill & Rachel Wiseman

Chatto & Windus, pp.416, 25

Metaphysical Animals tells of the friendship of four stellar figures in 20th-century philosophy — Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot — who attempted to bring British philosophy ‘back to life’. Fuelled by burning curiosity — not to mention chain-smoking, tea, wine, terrible cooking and many love affairs (sometimes with each other) — they tackled an ancient philosophical question: are humans a kind of animal or not? Dazzled as we are these days by technological possibility, their question only gains in urgency.

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