I’ve been listening to Peter Adamson’s podcasts “The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps”. They’re great. Peter has a lovely clear voice, knows how to put together history and philosophical commentary, tells plenty of amusing anecdotes, and has a great selection of guest speakers who can talk in depth about particular topics.
I’ve been using the podcasts for my teaching – even I find it much easier to get something out of the presocratics or hellenistics after listening to Peter Adamson talk about them, so I assume it will make life a lot easier for first year students!
This is not the end of my family’s commitment to the podcasts: my teenage daughter alternates her evenings between listening to them and watching old Doctor Who episodes. This is how good they are.
But disappointment is beginning to overshadow my enthusiasm.
When I first came across the podcasts, I imagined that without any gaps would mean that no philosopher would be excluded from consideration. Yet, we’re now well into the Christian era, and no woman has been discussed, expect in passing, Hypatia in the podcast called The Last Pagans, and Macrina in the Cappadocians.
In a reply to a comment, Peter says that he will discuss women as they come along in history, and mentions that
” ultimately we’re stuck with the fact that the history of philosophy is a history of ideas in surviving texts, and very few surviving texts from before a couple of centuries ago were written by women — in any field, never mind philosophy.”
This may be true. But it is true of at least some male ancient philosophers discussed in the podcasts such as Thales for whom we have only testimonia. We also do have testimonia for various women philosophers of the antiquity – even, in some cases, disputed texts. A quick look through the relevant sections of the Women Philosophers page will testify to that. So is Thales discussed because he is so significant, or is he significant because he is always discussed? Perhaps it is time to imbue a little significance into female philosophers of the antiquity.
But Middle Ages are coming up: so we could expect a change. Will Heloise‘s letters get a podcasts? Or Hildegard of Bingen‘s many writings? It may help Peter Adamson realise that these women matter to historians of philosophy if historians of philosophy tell him. I only found one comment on his page asking whether he would consider minority philosophers, including women. Perhaps historians of philosophy should write to him – name women philosophers, offer to contribute, Peter has a general comments page, here. My own comment will hopefully come up soon: it is currently held up because it triggered the spam filter. I wonder whether the mention of women in the context of philosophy was the problematic trigger!