In Ecology on the Ground and in the Clouds Andrea Nye raises a question. To whom should we look to inspiration in a time of environmental collapse and catastrophic global warming? It is to the famous “Inventor of Nature” Alexander Humboldt? Or is it to Humboldt’s much maligned and ignored travel partner the botanist Aimé Bonpland? While Humboldt climbed Mt Chimborazo to get a glimpse of cosmic unity, Bonpland searched the ground for rare and useful plants. While Humboldt took notes on supposed racial traits of native Americas, Bonpland followed Indian guides into tropical forests to learn about the tree that bears Brazil nuts and the harvesting of the fever remedy cinchona. Returned to Paris Humboldt concentrated on publicizing and promoting his many publications, Bonpland worked on his botanical collections, cultivated new and useful species in Josephine’s gardens at Malmaison, and then, with monarchy restored, left the Od World of Europe behind for a projects of agroforestry, communal farming, and land use planning in the new world of the Americas. Ecology on the Ground and in the Clouds tells a dramatic story of friendship, collaboration, and disagreement, in the process illustrating two very different ways of relating to the natural world.
Since the beginnings of monotheism, religion has seemed to be at war with both sexuality and women. From the crusades of Hebrew prophets against the fertility deities of Canaan, to contemporary Catholic campaigns against contraception and homosexuality, to the suppression of women in Islam, Western religions have demonized both eros and femininity. In Socrates and Diotima, I draw on the teaching of Socrates’s priestly mentor in “matters of love” in the Symposium to recover the sacred eros that constitutes in many pre-monotheist religious traditions a transcendent spark of immortality at the heart of mortal life. Stripping away centuries of Neo-Platonist and Christian commentary, I show how that spiritual knowledge was lost and how it might be regained to re-vitalize ethical commitment, provide access to divinity for both women and men, and offer non-credulous consolation in the face of death.
Since the “first wave” of feminist activism at the turn of the nineteenth century, women have looked to philosophy for concepts and theories that could guide feminist practice. Some turned to the democratic theories of the eighteenth century and a demand for equal rights with men, others to Marxism and utopian socialism, calling for an end to capitalism. More recently, feminists found inspiration in psychoanalytic and linguistic theories that locate sexism in patterns of psychosexual development or in the grammar and semantics of Western languages. This book reviews the history of these feminist uses of the “philosophies of man” finding in each case that, along with advancements in the understanding and redress of sexism came barriers that hindered feminist aims.
Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic. New York: Routledge, Chapman, Hall, 1990.
Are women less rational than men? Are women too emotional and situational to think logically? This book questions some of the assumptions behind this perennial debate. Examining the changing methods and aims of different systems of logic from Aristotle to Frege and Russell in the twentieth century, I describe interrelationships between logical innovation and oppressive speech strategies, showing that “logic,” often constitutes “words of power,” systemization of forms of authoritative language insulated against response. In such cases a woman’s failure to be “logical” restores honest debate and a renewed search for truth.
Philosophia: The Thought of Rosa Luxemburg, Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt. New York: Routledge, 1994.
It can seem to women enrolling in philosophy courses looking for insight in areas like ethical theory, philosophy of mind, theory of justice, that the history of philosophy—Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Heidegger, etc.—is a history of men’s thought. This book is a contribution to the rethinking of that history. I bring together the work of three major women thinkers of this century: Rosa Luxemburg, Simone Weil and Hannah Arendt, exploring continuities and contrasts that frame philosophical problems differently than in the mainstream masculine tradition. Luxemburg, Arendt, and Weil do not express the same ideas, nor do they have similar “feminine” styles of writing, but each keeps philosophical theorizing in contact with experienced reality. As a result, thinking about and through the catastrophic changing events of the twentieth century, they provide developing and deepening commentary on the human condition that is an important resource for those struggling against sexism, racism, and injustice.
Philosophy and Feminism: At the Border. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
This book introduces readers to the groundbreaking work of contemporary feminist philosophers in the fields of ethics, philosophy of consciousness, theory of knowledge, and political philosophy and to the effect of that work on the academic discipline of philosophy. I argue that developing “on the border” between traditional philosophy on the one hand and feminist thinking in philosophy on the other are paradigms of philosophical pedagogy–objective and also reflective, in dialectical relation with other disciplines, reconstructive of lines of thought that support liberation—that will be required in twenty-first century curricula.
Philosophy of Language: The Big Questions. London and New York: Blackwell, 1998
This edited volume brings together seminal texts in theory of language from Plato’s Cratylus to contemporary logicians and deconstructionists. Excerpts are grouped under headings—meaning, saying something, reference, truth, and understanding—so as to show the historical development and diversity of thought on issues such as the relation of language to reality, the nature of person to person communication, and the possibility of cross-cultural cross-language understanding. A general introduction to philosophy of language, as well as separate introductions to each group of readings, place the selections in historical and theoretic context.
The Princess and the Philosopher: The Letters of Elisabeth Palatine to René Descartes. Latham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999.
One of the many women who contributed to the on-going reflection on human existence we have come to call “philosophy” was the seventeenth century princess, Elisabeth Palatine. Called by family members “la Greque” because of her love of learning, Elisabeth took a lively interest in the theoretical issues of her time, and especially in the new rational/and empirical approaches to knowledge championed by Rene Descartes, with whom she carried on an extensive correspondence. The Princess and the Philosopher makes all of Elisabeth’s letters to Descartes available for the first time in English, along with running commentary on the historical, biographical, and intellectual context of the issues they discuss. Deeply concerned about the quality of physical life in Europe in the aftermath of the thirty Years’ War, Elisabeth’s questioning of Descartes’s assumption that the mind can separate itself from the physical body and her critique of his claim that disinterested rationality is the surest route to truth and goodness provoked Descartes to think more deeply about both ethics and the “passions of the soul.”.
Feminism and Modern Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2004
Since the beginning of the second wave of feminist activism in the 1960’s and 1970’s feminist philosophers have been in passionate dialogue with major figures in modern Western philosophy. In this book I review some of the philosophical sparks that fly when feminist thinkers take on Descartes the “founder: of modern philosophy, Rousseau champion of “natural man,” David Hume who turns out to be a hidden feminist ally, and the austere and forbidding Immanuel Kant. What results is not critique that defeats and discredits an opponent, but insights into the experiential sources of Western philosophy that result in a thinking “with,” “beyond” and “after” a previous thinker. What results is modern philosophy that is not quite what we previously thought it to be.