From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

The Monist, 2015, 98, 21–33
doi: 10.1093/monist/onu004

        From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation:
           How Do We Get There from Here?
                                              Mary Ellen Waithe*

    The phenomenon of recently rediscovered philosophical works by women who wrote
    from antiquity until the late 20th century is outlined in this paper. It questions what
    the English-language canon of philosophy is, what it ought to be, and what criteria
    ought to be employed or avoided in determining which authors and works merit inclu-
    sion in that canon. It examines biases to avoid when attempting to construct the canon
    of philosophy and to right the wrongful omission of women. Further, it suggests that
    employing particular criteria and avoiding particular biases will result in the expansion
    of the present canon to include the philosophical perspectives of minority and indige-
    nous peoples.

Quite some time ago, I wrote a review article for Hypatia titled “Canon Fodder.”1
It appeared fresh off the heels of an amazing conference on seventeenth-century
women philosophers that was the brainchild of Eileen O’Neill at the University of
Massachusetts in Amherst. At that conference, some presenters argued that the
contribution of most women to seventeenth-century philosophy was too minimalistic
to warrant inclusion in—oh, they didn’t say it, but—the all-male canon of philoso-
phy. A handful of philosophers had undertaken the task of locating, studying, trans-
lating, and writing about women philosophers. Information about many of those
women philosophers had appeared in the four-volume series A History of Women
Philosophers, but that anthology was hardly a complete compendium of philosophical
writings by women.2 Works by additional women philosophers continued to be
brought to light. It has been a full quarter century since the publication of the first
volume of A History of Women Philosophers, and Ethel Kersey’s Women Philosophers,
A Bio-Critical Sourcebook.3 There is a lot that is new and important in this field.
Still, despite progress and successes, much remains to be accomplished. In this essay
I examine what has been accomplished in terms of canon-formation and speculate as
to where that process should go from here.

 * Cleveland State University, Ohio.

C The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Hegeler Institute.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:

22       From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

                          1. WHAT IS CANO NIZAT IO N?
Dr. Arnie Sanders of Goucher College, Maryland, noted that dictionaries give the
following definition of canonization:

     Canon: n., from the Latin canon or “rule.” Originally, an ecclesiastical code of
     law or standard of judgment, later any standard of judgment, usually based
     upon a determinate set of authorized texts, like the canonical books of the
     Bible, Torah, Qu’ran, or Sutras.4

Sanders notes that this definition is hardly suitable to the enterprise of determining
which literary works form part of the canon of English literature, because it limits
inclusion in the canon to those who are judged by the ‘authorizers’ or ‘authorities’
to be worthy of admission. Likewise, it would be unsuitable for determining the
canon of philosophy. Sanders reminds us that the criterion that a canon contains a
“determinate set” of texts and their authors suggests that canons—I would call them
la crème de la crème—exclude an indeterminate number of the best of a group of
works and their authors. Nor does this definition suggest the criteria for deciding
the contents of the larger set of works or authors from which la crème de la crème
has risen. For the purposes of the present discussion about the canon of philosophy,
I refer to the larger set of works and authors as the compendium and la crème de la
crème of that compendium as the canon. How does a work or an author make it into
the compendium, and from compendium to canon?
    As feminist scholar Charlotte Witt has asked: “What could serve as a principle
underlying that decision?”5 She identified three potential criteria for feminists and
recommended employing a combination of all three. If a woman’s work met any
one of these three, the author would be considered to be part of the canon.
Unfortunately, each of these criteria has drawbacks that may limit their usefulness or
relevance. Witt’s first criterion is a bit vague, a ‘just because’ criterion that appears to
mean that the woman herself, or her teachings or writings, students or readers claim
that she is a philosopher or claim that her work is a work of philosophy. A difficulty
with this criterion is that there are colloquial and academic uses of the term ‘philoso-
pher’ and both types of usage vary according to time and place. Gilles Menage, for
example, in his seventeenth-century Historia Mulierum Philosopharum6 includes
women who were astrologers and gynecologists—learned women, surely, but ques-
tionably philosophers. The fact that an author self-identifies as a philosopher does
not indicate that she is in fact a philosopher. The fact that her translators, students,
etc. claim that she is a philosopher seems to me to be an ad hominem argument that
she is a philosopher and her work is philosophical. And that of course is precisely the
issue when we are discussing compendium-building and canon-formation.
    Witt’s second criterion for who makes it into the canon she calls the ‘handmaiden’
criterion: a woman has made a significant contribution to supporting (interpreting,
critiquing) the work of a philosopher and that writing or that philosopher has been
admitted to the canon. Witt rightly reminds us that such an approach typically means
that a woman has improved upon what some man has written. I would speculate
that all philosophers begin their professional careers by building upon, explaining,
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?       23

critiquing, etc. that which has come before. When the handmaiden is a woman,
such as Elisabeth of Bohemia in her correspondence with Descartes, she is forever
relegated to that servile second-class status, no matter how original, no matter how
nonderivative other items from her corpus of work may be. Male handmaidens—
think John Rawls (or John Stuart Mill) and their commentaries on Kant—somehow
make it into the canon as original thinkers. This criterion is similar to the first,
although it would contain a few more details, viz. a canonical figure is one who con-
tributes to an understanding of anything previously considered to be philosophical
whether that be organized topically (like virtue ethics) or whether that be organized
according to the authors on such topics (such as Aristotle or Hildegard).
    A third criterion for a principle of canonicity identified by Witt, citing Lisa
Shapiro,7 is what I label the ‘burning-issues’ criterion—a woman has systematically
analyzed an issue or topic that is recognizably a canonical one for philosophy: the na-
ture of reason, or of goodness, or of mathematics, or of science, or of religion, or of
human nature, etc. Although this sounds unproblematic, it risks identifying as philo-
sophical only issues that male philosophers historically have accepted in the past as
issues that philosophy ought to consider. However, what is attractive, in part, about
the ‘burning-issues’ criterion is that it explicitly removes gender (of author) and
genre (of writing) from consideration and requires us to consider for inclusion in the
canon works (and their authors) in which a ‘burning issue’ is analyzed. However,
if male philosophers traditionally have determined which issues are burning and
which are not, then, employing the ‘burning-issues’ criterion may usher in to the
compendium only those women philosophers who analyzed the same issues men
philosophers have traditionally analyzed. Employing the ‘burning-issues’ criterion
may result in the exclusion of some women from both the compendium and
the canon. Yet, it is instructive to note that employing the ‘burning-issues’ criterion
results in the inclusion of more than one hundred women in the compendium of
philosophy. This is no reason to accept the criterion, but it ought to give pause to
historians of women’s contributions to the discipline. (And because ‘more than one
hundred’ is hardly a paltry number, it ought also to bring us a smug sense of
    The ‘burning-issues’ criterion must be applied without recourse to gender, but
also without recourse to the genre of philosophical writing. At some time during
the past few millennia, a silent assumption arose that ‘burning issues’ were properly
addressed (and their author properly considered to be a philosopher) only when
those issues were examined in an essay or dialogue form that had an explicitly argu-
mentative style. This assumption seems to have persisted even as philosophers began
also to consider closely related genres, such as the epistolary, poetic, and aphoristic,
as acceptable for philosophical discourse. Thus, for example, the correspondence
of Descartes, Locke, and Mill are recognized as sources of significant insights into
those philosophers’ views. But the extension of philosophical genre to include the
epistolary or poetic appears to occur only when the author also wrote in argumenta-
tive essay or dialogic form. I do not recall any canonical male philosopher whose
views were known exclusively through an examination of their correspondence.
This reliance upon genres of essay and dialogue as primary sources of information
24      From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

about a thinker’s views apparently became excuses for historians of philosophy to
ignore large bodies of philosophical writing and large numbers of philosophers.
Due to genre most nonwestern philosophical writings, and with them, their authors,
were relegated to a ‘nonburning’ trash bin. Exceptions were made by modern west-
ern historians of philosophy for the crème de la crème of eastern thought when token
works, such as Kung Fu-Tzu’s Analects and Lao Tzu’s Dao te Ching were admitted
to the canon. With them came not only the teachings and writings of students
like Meng-Tzu and Chuang Tzu, but also certain parts of Hindu texts such as
the Bhagavad Gita. The genre of these texts range from aphorisms to hymns, and are
almost devoid of explicit argument. The explicitly argumentative nature of western
philosophical writings slowly leads the reader through premises to conclusions.
In stark contrast, the excoriating rants of Zen authors stubbornly avoid argument
form and instead demand that the reader slowly cultivate insights into the concealed
argument and issues addressed. Omission of works not written in essay or dialogic
genres perversely resulted in reduction to a footnote of philosophical works by many
of the Romans whose works are marginalized in contemporary philosophic circles.
We might stretch the boundaries of genre even further to consider how abstract ideas
about ‘burning issues’ may be communicated without literary media. The nonwritten
traditions of indigenous peoples of Africa, Australia, Oceania, and the Americas
through media such as cave paintings, sagacious aphorisms, carved glyphs, and dance
are not recognized by most western philosophers as valuable genres for transmitting
philosophical views and theories. Such close-minded, decidedly unphilosophical
approaches to compendium-formation also took their toll on inclusion of women
philosophers in the compendium. To the extent that philosophic views portrayed in
nonliterary media can be recorded, transmitted, and preserved for posterity, they
also ought to be included in the compendium. Too many are not, and therefore our
present compendium is incomplete. Are those omitted or marginalized works philo-
sophical? To claim they are not is tantamount to confessing that because of their
genres, we lack insight into their views. This claim has the effect of suggesting that
other civilizations—the other half of the world—cannot think philosophically.8

                     2. ID EN TI FYI NG THE CO MP EN DIU M
How do we get there from here? There appear to be two basic steps: the identifica-
tion of the compendium, and, the creation of the canon from the compendium.
I return for a moment to the description of a canon as consisting of the crème de la
crème of authors and works considered ‘authoritative’ without concern for genre, and
derived from the compendium. Part of what historians of women’s contributions
to philosophy have criticized is that until very recently women philosophers of past
centuries were accorded little or no authority because the record of their contribu-
tions was omitted from the compendium by those who exercised the power to de-
scribe and define the canon. These ‘authorities’ seemingly skipped over works
authored by women, apparently without taking the time and effort to read them.
Had they read those works with the goal of identifying the ‘burning issues’ addressed
in those writings, said ‘authorities’ would have judged the works on their philosophi-
cal merits rather than on sexist assumptions about the authors’ intellectual prowess.
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?       25

The ‘authorities’ I have in mind here are those like Frederick Copleston who wrote
the comprehensive English-language histories of philosophy and those like Paul
Edwards who edited the comprehensive English-language Encyclopedia of Philosophy
published in the last century. To the extent that such works determine the compen-
dium, the compendium itself is incomplete. The first step toward canon reformation
must be compendium-building.
   The compendium has expanded almost exponentially in the last quarter century
or so, mostly due to the recovery and restoration of works by women and by non-
white thinkers. There are at least three distinct types of sources of information as to
who and what constitutes the compendium. First are the histories of the discipline—
the general histories as well as the recovery projects. Second are the articles in the
professional philosophy press. Third are the major encyclopedias of philosophy.
Although in this article I limit myself to works available in English, if we were to ex-
amine the contents of all of these types of publications, we would arrive at the known
compendium of philosophy. (Of course, the compendium will expand as additional
works are discovered; I do not mean to suggest that it is fixed.)

                                    The histories
Since antiquity historians have created compendia of members of and works by ma-
jor and minor schools of philosophy. Diogenes Laertius9 mentions half a dozen
women as contributors to ancient Greek philosophical schools. Plutarch’s Lives of the
Eminent Philosophers10 mentions several women philosophers as does the Suda
Lexicon.11 Stobeaus’s Anthology12 preserves extant works by ancients including
Aesara of Lucania. Contemporary editions of those ancient and medieval histories
are also the primary sources of information about male thinkers who are the subjects
of dedicated encyclopedia articles and histories of philosophy. How then is it the
case that the women philosophers those texts mention and whose works they
preserve, escaped notice by most twentieth-century historians of the field writing
in English who relied on those sources? The explanation is either incompetence
or sexism.
   Who are the great twentieth-century historians of philosophy whose writings
(in English) were intended to be taken as authoritative comprehensive compendia?
Certainly we would include Father Copleston in the early half of the twentieth cen-
tury. Later in the century we have Richard Popkin, Jerome Schneewind,13 and per-
haps a few others. Their histories are not explicitly focused only on men’s
contributions to our discipline, even though that may be a fair description of the con-
tents of those histories. Amongst this group, Copleston twice names Hypatia in the
context of the Alexandrinian School and mentions her student, later, the Bishop
Synesius.14 Copleston also mentions Christina of Sweden as someone who wished
to be instructed by Descartes,15 but makes no mention of the fact that after her abdi-
cation she founded Rome’s Arcadian Academy of Philosophy—an institution that
survives to this day. Clearly, Copleston’s important series of histories is gender
   Popkin and Schneewind fare considerably better on my scorecard because their
writings do mention women philosophers, but mostly when those women cross
26      From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

paths with the males who are the primary focus of their histories. Richard Popkin,
for example, in his History of Skepticism,16 mentions in connection with famous
male philosophers Christina of Sweden, Anne Conway, Margaret Fell, Elisabeth of
Bohemia, Marie de Gournay, Marguerite de Navarre, and Anna Maria van
Schurmann, but not all are mentioned as philosophers in their own right. Jerome
Schneewind, in his Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant,17 mentions Damaris
Masham only in the context of her father Ralph Cudworth and her friend, John
Locke, never noting that she published on philosophy of religion and moral philoso-
phy.18 Schneewind does present the full correspondence between Descartes and
Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, and Queen Christina of Sweden’s correspondence
with Descartes—all on the subject of moral philosophy.19 He devotes a chapter to
Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees without mentioning Émilie du Châtelet’s translation/
adaptation of it.20 The bottom line is that even the best recent and contemporary
comprehensive histories of our discipline—these compendia—give scant respect
to the women who have contributed to our discipline’s history.
    From 1987 through 1995 lesser-known histories such as the four volumes of
A History of Women Philosophers reintroduced to the compendium one hundred
twenty-six women philosophers from antiquity through the mid-twentieth century.21
In 1993 Therese Boos Dykeman introduced us to Anne Bradstreet, Mercy Otis
Warren, Judith Sargent Murray, Frances Wright, and Ednah Dow Cheney.22 In 1990
Therese Boos Dykeman reintroduced to the compendium Confucian philosopher
Pan Chao.23 In 2002 John Conley helped to rebuild the compendium by restoring
to it works by salon philosophers, Mme de Maintenon, Mme de Sablé, Mme de la
Sabliére, Mme Deshoulières, and Mlle de Vallière.24 The following year his transla-
tion of the work of Jacqueline Pascal25 added that work to the compendium. In 2005
Dorothy G. Rogers restored to the compendium seven American philosophers:
Susan Blow, Anna Brackett, Grace Bibb, Ellen Mitchell, Eliza Read Sunderland,
Lucia Ames Mead and Marietta Kies.26 Rogers’s editorial selections for the 2005
Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers brought us Elizabeth Palmer Peabody,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Howe, Eliza Ritchie, Anna Garlin Spencer, Ellen
Bliss Talbot, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, and Jessie Taft.27 In 2009 Conley reintroduced
the works of three amazing Arnauld women, showing how Angélique Arnauld, Agnés
Arnauld, and Angélique de St.-Jean Arnauld d’Andilly contributed to the philosophic
literature and teaching of their times.28 In 2010, the works of Gabrielle Suchon29
were translated into English. These additions bring our compendium of women
philosophers to one hundred fifty-seven.

                                  The encyclopedias
If we use our crème de la crème analogy, it seems clear that an author or work listed
in an encyclopedia of philosophy is, at a minimum, crème, having made it into the
compendium. Who are some of the other philosophers in the compendium? You are
all familiar with Richard the Sophister and Simon of Faversham.30 These forgotten
philosophers are included in the compendium. If inclusion in a major comprehensive
encyclopedia such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy amounts to inclusion in
the compendium, then, of its twenty entries on women, only Margaret Fell is new.
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?       27

According to the editor of the SEP, articles are planned on five additional women,
of whom only Lucrezia Marinella is new.31 These one hundred fifty-nine women
philosophers have already made it into the compendium. But which of them, if any,
have made it into the canon?
    Hypatia, whom one would expect is a canonical figure, is dismissed as a ‘mathema-
tician’ and ‘astronomer’ even though she headed a school of philosophy when mathe-
matics and astronomy were considered applied metaphysics: their advanced
study required expertise in philosophy. Hypatia is mentioned in three Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy articles but is subject of none.32 Her philosophical writings
are buried, surviving only through the correspondence, marginalia, scholia, and com-
mentaries of her students and successors. But the same is true of Pythagoras, and we
would not on that account deny that Pythagoras was a philosopher, and a canonical
one at that. What, other than her gender, justifies the omission of Hypatia from the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is not
the only philosophical encyclopedia to omit an article dedicated to an important
woman philosopher. Heloise is mentioned in nine articles of the Internet
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, but is the subject of none.

            Peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and book chapters
Lagemann’s 1996 article on Dewey’s educational philosophy brought our attention
to Ella Flagg Young.33 Karin Brown introduced us to Sophie de Grouchy, Mme de
Condorcet’s work on sympathy, and in the same collection from 2000 Mary Helen
Washington’s essay on Anna Julia Cooper introduced the first African American
woman philosopher.34 In 2009 Penny Weiss brought to our attention the contribu-
tions of Sei Shonagon to medieval Japanese philosophy and in 2010 Maria Rentetzi
introduced Rose Rand of the Vienna Circle.35
   Journal articles published before 2012 introduced us to the works of five additional
women in the field: Julia Gulliver,36 Constance de Salm,37 Mary Hays, and Elizabeth
Hamilton.38 Beatriz de Galindo,39 Mira, 40 Maria Zambrano,41 Zeb-un Nisa,42 Rabia al
Adawiyya,43 and Gargi Vacaknavi are also the subjects of books and articles.44 This
brings us to one hundred seventy-four women who wrote on what were in their time
and location burning issues of philosophy.

        3 . E X TR A CT IN G T HE C A N ON F ROM T HE C OM P E ND I UM
Scholarly study creates canons by making accurate texts available and by defining the
terms by which they are studied.45 Clearly we’re well on the way to making accurate
texts available. What is less clear is whether the historians of women’s contributions
to philosophy get to define the terms by which those works are studied. But perhaps
we can learn how to construct a canon by first eliminating approaches that tend to
mitigate against inclusion of women philosophers in the canon.

                                What not to do
Don’t Create a Ghetto Canon. I would argue that marketing works by women
philosophers as ‘women’s literature’ or as ‘feminism’ can sometimes thwart the
28       From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

practice of philosophy canon-formation. Most works of philosophy authored by
women of the past are not works of feminism. But if we market those works as
works of ‘feminism’ or ‘feminist philosophy’ we impose upon millennia-old thinkers
contemporary labels that define and limit their audience to those few long-dead
women philosophers who actually did write about feminism. If we instead market
works by women philosophers as works of philosophy simpliciter then those authors
and their works have a chance of making it into the canon of philosophy. But if we
only market those works as works by women, those compendium authors only make
it into the more limited and easy to ignore ghetto: the canon of women philoso-
phers. Claiming a separate canon for women philosophers begs the question in light
of the fact that I have just argued that the other canon, the canon of philosophers
who are not women, ought not explicitly consider gender as a criterion for admission
to it.

                                  Avoid ‘credential’ bias
At first it appears that a lack of credentials has been responsible for excluding women
from both compendium and canon. Some of the credentials:

       i. That an author who lived after the popularization of universities in the thir-
          teenth century earned a Ph.D.
      ii. That the Ph.D. was in Philosophy, not some other discipline.
     iii. That an author who had not earned a Ph.D. in philosophy nevertheless
          taught philosophy at an established institution of higher education.
     iv. That an author who lived prior to the institutionalization of universities
          acted as philosophy tutor or teacher to important people, some of whom
          were later recognized to be professional philosophers.
      v. That an author who lived after the popularization of the printing press
          was published by a reputable, academic press, not (merely) by a vanity or
          self-publishing press.

Descartes, with his doctorate in Law would have failed criteria i and ii. Hume
would not have met criterion iii. Augustine would fail criterion iv. Descartes,
Locke and Hume would all have failed criterion v. So, although i–v may be cri-
teria, they weren’t used to exclude men from the canon. Therefore we shouldn’t
expect that they be employed to exclude women from the canon. But it appears
that in many cases—depending upon the history or encyclopedia in question—
such biased criteria were in fact employed, but only with respect to women.
The English language contemporary compendia and the canon of philosophy
fossilized our discipline by reducing the study of its history to a dry litany of
men and men’s works. The unspoken rules by which allegedly canonical texts
appear to have been selected tended to favor the powerful and to exclude or
marginalize the powerless, regardless of the merits of their work. Works of phil-
osophical merit—those belonging to the compendium whether or not actually
included in it—tend to be those written by those who ‘naturally’ belong to the
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?      29

empowered group. These would then ‘naturally’ exclude works by members of
the powerless group, women.

                             Avoid ‘burning-issue’ bias
Historians of women’s contributions to philosophy can be biased also as to what
constitutes a burning issue. That bias tends to derive from accepting as a burning
issue that which contemporary philosophers value most. This has the tendency to
exclude those burning issues that were in past centuries valued by philosophers.
An example of an entrenched burning-issue bias is the unspoken contemporary
assumption that mysticism is not properly part of epistemology. Contemporary his-
tories, encyclopedias, and the academic press rarely, if ever, discuss mysticism in the
context of epistemology. Perhaps this is a reaction to nonrigorous, contemporary
‘new-wave’ pseudophilosophy that blurs mystical experiences obtained through
chemical or other means with philosophical mysticism. This entrenched value, or
rather, this entrenched bias, ‘naturally’ excludes works by women philosophers like
Teresa de Avila and Birgitta of Sweden, while retaining as a cute example of what
once was philosophy—but is ‘upon contemporary analysis’ no longer considered
so—the canonical and very mystical Meister Eckhart.
    Part of the challenge for historians of philosophy is to figure out how we are
going to avoid introducing other biases to which we might be susceptible as we
continue to add women to the compendium and push to have specific women
philosophers and their works included and accepted into the canon. We histo-
rians of women’s contributions to philosophy might be susceptible to biases of
our own. Due to the exclusion of women from the discipline, women philoso-
phers had a harder time than men obtaining advanced education in philosophy
and therefore had reduced opportunities to publish and teach philosophy. Ought
we to give in to our sympathetic bias and cut them some slack and include
them in the canon even if they produced very little, or produced little that we
think to be significantly philosophical? They made some contribution, this argu-
ment goes, and they did so against great odds. Ought we to reward those who
have had limited philosophical success by enshrining them and their works in
the canon? Examples that I have in mind here might be some of the early
American women philosophers. They might have two strikes against them, so to
speak. Sometimes their writings were not in mainstream philosophical venues—
they published in “ladies magazines,” or wrote in genres not recently considered
appropriate for philosophy such as philosophical novels or poetry with philo-
sophical significance.
    The entrenched tastes and habitual biases of the powerful turned the process
of canon-formation and its product into a female prison camp where works and their
authors are imprisoned, kept outside mainstream/malestream canonical traditions.
If historians of women’s contributions to philosophy (and their professional organi-
zations, such as the Society for the Study of Women Philosophers) are careless,
the histories of those women philosophers will simply be left to wither away, die,
and get reburied.
30       From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

   John Searle gives us a cue that toddler-like stamping of one’s feet until we get
a canon devoid of gender bias is in fact the methodology for canon-formation and
reformation. Searle states:

     In my experience there never was, in fact, a fixed ‘canon’; there was rather a
     certain set of tentative judgments about what had importance and quality.
     Such judgments are always subject to revision, and in fact they were constantly
     being revised.46

                                     What to do
In part, we ought to behave like toddlers: stamping our feet until we get our way and
the canon is revised. Although this is not a philosophically sound approach, nor a
valid methodology, upon reflection this appears to be the methodology required to
correct sexist bias now enshrined in the canon. One repeats a judgment as a question
for examination, reflection, introspection, and argument while also asserting or as-
suming it to be a fact, to be a truth. This is exactly the way in which women were
written out of the canon: by publishing numerous encyclopedias, numerous histories
that simply made no mention of them. But we ought to do more than our biased
forefather historians of philosophy have done. We need to state the case in general,
and for specific philosophers and their works. We ought to be prepared to back up
our claims with historical evidence that philosophers of the past—yes, including
those males who have already made it into the canon—found our female candidates
for canonicity to be competent exponents of burning issues, and to be valued con-
tributors to the conversation that was known to be philosophy in their day and at
their geographic site.
    Despite the misogynist exclusion of women from the canon, it appears that we
are well on our way towards rectifying the situation. We have re-examined and con-
tinue to re-examine and correct the histories. We have contributed articles about our
foremothers to encyclopedias and to the scholarly press. We are beginning to teach
our students the truth. Most women presently included in the compendium were
active participants in contemporary philosophical circles. All were viewed by their
contemporary male canonical philosophers to be competent exponents of burning
issues. The philosophical views of all of those women philosophers were known
to and respected—even if criticized—by their male contemporaries. All of those
women philosophers were knowledgeable, to varying degrees, of the philosophi-
cal works of canonical male predecessors and contemporaries. The evidence
for this is found in correspondence and published works of philosophers of both
    To my knowledge, there are only two women philosophers who were not clearly
engaged in contemporary philosophical circles: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Oliva
Sabuco de Nantes Barrera. Both were learned women who clearly understood and
commented upon the works of classical philosophers including Plato and Aristotle,
both addressed burning philosophical issues of their day, and both were considered
by their contemporaries to be authors of philosophical works. But neither was part of
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?      31

the philosophical circles of their place and time. To warrant including them in the
canon we must dig deeper.
   It is true that Oliva Sabuco knew her neighbor, the then most famous philosopher
of Spain—Pedro Simón Abril. It is likely that he influenced her. There is no evidence
to my knowledge that she influenced him. Sabuco immediately became widely fa-
mous as a philosopher throughout Spain, France, England, and elsewhere in Europe
for her New Philosophy of Human Nature.47 She meets the “influence on other philos-
ophers” criterion, most particularly with her early advocacy of empirical science, and
her view of mind as the activities of the physical brain and central nervous system.
   In the case of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the evidence that her contemporaries
knew of her as a philosopher comes from those who were threatened by her influ-
ence and persecuted her for encouraging women to study philosophy at the cost of
their domestic duties. Her fitting response: “One can perfectly well philosophize
while cooking supper . . . Had Aristotle cooked, he would have written a great deal
   I would argue that philosophers who are the named subject of mid-sized philoso-
phy encyclopedia articles have already made it into the canon. Those who are merely
mentioned in such articles, or who have earned only brief entries, may not yet have
been canonized. Philosophers whose works are published by peer-reviewed philoso-
phy presses in contemporary translations or editions appear also to have been canon-
ized, or to be prime candidates for canonization. Those who are the subjects in
comprehensive histories of philosophy—the histories of a philosophical movement,
or of philosophy in a particular nation or continent, or of a particular time period—
also seem to me to have been admitted to the canon. Those who regularly are stud-
ied in philosophy doctoral programs also appear to be part of the canon. More than
one hundred women philosophers satisfy one or more of these criteria.
   The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains articles on the following philoso-
phers (the italicized names appeared earlier in Mary Ellen Waithe, A History of
Women Philosophers): Jane Addams, G.E.M. Anscombe, Hannah Arendt, Agnés
Arnauld, Angélique Arnauld, Simone de Beauvoir, Angélique de Saint Jean Arnauld
d’Andilly, Anne le Fèvre Dacier, Jeanne-Françoise Fréymiot Baronne de Chantal,
Marie de Sevigné, Antoinette Deshoulières, Marie de Gournay, Sarah and Angelina
Grimké, Hipparchia, Luce Irigaray, Marguerite de la Sablière, Louise Françoise de la
Vallière, Anne-Thérèse Lambert, Françoise d’Aubigné (Madame de Maintenon)
Jacqueline Pascal, Ayn Rand, Mardeleine de Souvré (Marquise de Sablé), Elizabeth
Cady Stanton, Kristina Wasa. It mentions the following: Arete (in article on
Cyrenaics), Macrina (Gregory of Nyssa), Harriet Taylor Mill (John Stuart Mill),
Aspasia (Gorgias), Perictione (Plato), Diotima (Epicurus, Sophists, Aristotle), Hypatia
(Marie de Gournay). Articles on Michele le Doeuff, Philippa Foot, Iris Marion
Young, Simone Veil (sic) Mary Astell, Marie Olympe de Gouge (sic), Hypatia, Susan
Moller Okin, Harriette (sic) Taylor, and Mary Wollstonecraft are either in progress, or
being sought by the editor.
   The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy49 includes articles on Jane Addams,
G.E.M. Anscombe, Hannah Arendt, Mary Astell, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Lucas
Cavendish, Émilie du Châtelet, Catharine Trotter Cockburn, Anne Conway, Elisabeth of
32         From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?

Bohemia, Margaret Fell, Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones, Lucrezia Marinella, Damaris
Masham, Catharine Macaulay, Harriet Taylor Mill, Ayn Rand, Madeleine de Scudéry,
Mary Wollstonecraft. The philosopher Hypatia is mentioned in two articles (Syrianus,
Ammonius) and Heloise appears in three articles (Abelard, William of Champeaux,
and Marriage and Domestic Partnership).
   Historians tend to measure time in centuries or millennia. We focus on the past
with a view toward having that past remembered by future generations. It shouldn’t
take more than another century or so for us to complete the task of reintroducing
to the canon the nearly two hundred women whose contributions to our field effec-
tively vanished during the past two centuries. In the blink of another millennium the
exclusion of women from the philosophical canon will be little more than a footnote
to the history of philosophy. This is true unless, of course, we abandon the task of
canon-formation to the misogynists. 50

                                                    N O T ES
 1.       Mary Ellen Waithe, “Canon Fodder: New Works by and about Women Philosophers,” Hypatia 19
          (2004), 134–49.
 2.       Mary Ellen Waithe, ed., A History of Women Philosophers, 4 vols. (Dordrecht, London and Boston:
          Martinus Nijoff/Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1987–1995).
 3.       Ethel M. Kersey, Women Philosophers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Indianapolis: Greenwood Press, 1989).
 4.       Arnie Sanders, “The ‘Canon’ of English Literature,”
 5.       Charlotte Witt, “Feminist Interpretations of the Philosophical Canon,” Signs: Journal of Women in
          Culture and Society 31 (2006), 537–52.
 6.       Aegidius Menagius, Historia Mulierum Philosopharum (Lugduni, Anissonios, Joan. Posuel, and Claudium
          Rigaud, 1690); Gilles Ménage, The History of Women Philosophers, trans., Beatrice Zedler (Lanham, NY:
          University Press of America,1984).
 7.       Lisa Shapiro, “The Place of Women in Early Modern Philosophy,” in Feminist Reflections on the History
          of Philosophy, ed. Lilli Alanen and Charlotte Witt (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004),
 8.       I owe this insight to Kerianne Mulcahy Marston.
 9.       Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, trans., C.D. Yonge (London: Bell, 1901).
10.       Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans Englished by Sir Thomas North, 1597 (New York: AMS
          Press, 1967).
11.       Suidae Lexicon, ed. Immanuel Becker (Berolini: Georgis Reimeri,1854).
12.       Stobaeus, Anthologium, ed. Curtius Wachsmuth and Otto Hense (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung,
13.       Jerome Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (Cambridge:
          Cambridge University Press, 1997); Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge
          University Press, 2005).
14.       Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome (New York: Paulist Press, 1947), 482,
15.       Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Descartes to Leibniz (New York: Paulist Press, 1958), 65.
16.       Richard Popkin, History of Skepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
          California Press, 1979).
17.       Jerome Schneewind, Moral Philosophy.
18.       Ibid., 275.
19.       Ibid., 224–34.
20.       Mary Ellen Waithe, “Émilie du Châtelet,” in Waithe, A History, vol. 3, 127–51.
21.       Therese Boos Dykeman, The Neglected Canon: Nine Women Philosophers, First to the Twentieth Century
          (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999).
From Canon Fodder to Canon-Formation: How Do We Get There from Here?                              33

22.   Therese Boos Dykeman, American Women Philosophers, 1650–1930—Six Exemplary Thinkers (Lewiston,
      NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993).
23.   Dykeman, The Neglected Canon.
24.   John Conley, The Suspicion of Virtue: Women Philosophers in Neo-Classical France (Ithaca: Cornell
      University Press, 2002).
25.   John Conley, Jacqueline Pascal: A Rule for Children and Other Writings (Chicago: University of Chicago
      Press, 2003).
26.   Dorothy G. Rogers, America’s First Women Philosophers: Transplanting Hegel 1860–1925 (New York:
      Continuum Studies in Philosophy, 2005).
27.   Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2005).
28.   John Conley, Adoration and Annihilation: The Convent Philosophy of Port-Royal (South Bend: University
      of Notre Dame Press, 2009).
29.   Gabrielle Suchon, A Woman Who Defends All the Persons of her Sex: Selected Philosophical and Moral
      Writings, trans., Domna Stanton and Rebecca Wilkin, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).
30.   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entries on Simon of Faversham and Richard the Sophister.
32.   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entries on Ammonius, Syrianus, Wisdom, and Petrus Ramus.
33.   Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, “Experimenting with Education: John Dewey and Ella Flagg Young at the
      University of Chicago,” American Journal of Education 104 (1996), 171–85.
34.   Karin Brown, “Mme de Condorcet’s Letters on Sympathy,” and Mary Helen Washington, “Introduction
      to A Voice From the South” in Presenting Women Philosophers, ed., Cecile Tougas and Sara Ebenrech
      (Temple University Press, 2000), 225–27 and 15–24.
35.   Penny Weiss, Canon Fodder: Historical Women Political Thinkers (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania
      State University Press, 2009), 56–78; Maria Rentetzi, “I Want to Look Like a Lady, Not Like a Factory
      Worker: Rose Rand, a Woman Philosopher of the Vienna Circle,” in EPSA Epistemology and
      Methodology of Science, ed., Mauricio Suárez, Mauro Dorato, and Miklós Rédel (Dordrecht: Springer,
      2010), 233–34.
36.   Donald Walhout, “Julia Gulliver as Philosopher,” Hypatia 16 (2001), 72–89.
37.   Elizabeth Colwill, “Epistolary Passions: Friendship and the Literary Public of Constance de Salm,”
      Journal of Women’s History 12 (2000), 39–68.
38.   Sarah Hutton, “The Persona of the Woman Philosopher in Eighteenth-Century England: Catharine
      Macaulay, Mary Hays, and Elizabeth Hamilton,” Intellectual History Review 18 (2008), 403–12.
39.   Cristina de la Cruz de Artega y Falguera, Beatriz Galindo, “La Latina,” (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1975).
40.   V.K. Subramanian, Mystic Songs of Meera (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 2006).
41.   Teresa Rocha Barco, Maria Zambrano la razón poética o la filosofı́a (Madrid: Tecnos, 1998).
42.   Zeb-un-Nissa, Divan-i Makhf (Lahore: Amrit Press, 1920).
43.   Margaret Smith, Rabi’a the Mystic and Her Fellow-Saints in Islam. Being the life and teachings of Rabi’a al-
      ’Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya of Basra, Sufi saint, ca A.H. 99–185, A.D.717–801. Together with an account of the
      place of the women in Islam and with a survey of sources, references, a concise bibliography and indexes
      (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1928).
44.   David Buchtna, “Gargi Vacaknavi as an Honorary Male: An Eighteenth Century Reception of an
      Upanisadic Female Sage,” Journal of Hindu Studies, 3 (2010), 354–70.
45.   Sanders, loc. cit.
46.   John Searle, “The Storm Over the University,” The New York Review of Books, December 6, 1990.
47.   Oliva Sabuco, Nveva Filosofia de la Naturaleza del Hombre. Madrid: Pedro Madrigal (1587). Oliva
      Sabuco, New Philosophy of Human Nature (1587), Waithe, Vintro and Zorita, trans. (Urbana-
      Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2007).
48.   Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Repuesta a Sor Filotea, trans. Electa Arunal and Amanda Powell, The Answer/
      La Repuesta, 2nd ed. (New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2009), stanza
      28, 75.
50.   An earlier version of this essay was presented at the American Philosophical Association Eastern
      Division Meeting of the Society for the Study of Women Philosophers, December 2012.
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