Our first Venetian female philosopher is Veronica Franco (1546-1591), a 16th century courtesan known for her letters and poetry. Franco was born into a working class family with three brothers, all of whom received an education. Fortunately, her mother encouraged her daughter to study under a tutor alongside her brothers. It was not until after her divorce from Paolo Panizza that Franco, left with a child and the loss of her dowry, became a courtesan for highly esteemed men including Henry III and Domenico Venier. Venier, a famous poet himself and head of a renowned literary academy, provided Franco with great friendship and a space to work on her writing.
Franco’s writings critique the treatment of courtesans by the state and men. Her poetry provides insight into her personal relationships as well as her philosophical endorsement of equality between men and women. In her own defense, Franco makes herself representative of all women and argues that, given the opportunity and resources, women would have physical and mental abilities equal to that of men.
Later in her life, Franco published a collection of her correspondence with her clients. Shortly after this publication, however, Franco was accused of witchcraft and her reputation was ruined. Throughout the course of her career, Veronica Franco became known for her esteemed reputation as a courtesan, her defense of equality for women, and her exceptional writing abilities. We will look at selected passages in her ‘Terze Rime’ (1575), a collection of poetry, and selected letters from her “Lettere Familiari a Diversi” (1580), a collection of 50 letters between Franco and her clients.
Image : Jacopo Tintoretto (1575-1594), Portrait of a Lady. Source: Worcester Art Museum. Note: This portrait is taken to be of Franco because her name is written on the lining of the canvas
During the Renaissance, Venice served as a major point of trade in Europe. With a flourishing economy, the city soon became a center for tourism, art, and culture. After adopting the printing press in the early 16th century, Venice began to produce many important works of various Greek and Roman writers. Despite the city’s freedom from the censorship of the Church, religious literature increased in production due to the Counter-Reformation in the 16th century. After the success of the Protestant Reformation, Catholic leaders fought to implement their religious doctrines in places like Venice. By 1580, there were over 60 religious households in Venice filled with thousands of clergymen, friars, monks, and nuns. Both inside and outside of these religious institutions, the production of literature backing the Counter-Reformation called for Catholic values in the home. The virtuous woman was asked to be chaste, modest, obedient, and complementary to their household and husband. As an active publication center, however, Venice also produced non-religious and anti-religious texts. Some of these works were written by Venetian women with the means to an education. They produced texts outside of and in response to the religious ideals encouraging women to serve as tokens of Catholic morality where they would be judged by their ability to perform as devout mothers and obedient wives. Over the next several months this blog will focus on four Venetian female philosophers: Veronica Franco (1546-1591), Moderata Fonte (1555-1592), Lucrezia Marinella (1571-1653), and Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652). By examining selected passages from their texts, we will look to highlight the nuance and significance of the feminist and philosophical insights made by these women during this time.
In this episode, Olivia Branscum speaks with Professor Gary Ostertag, Affiliated Associate Professor at the City University of New York and Professor of Philosophy at Nassau Community College. We discuss the life, context, and achievements of Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones, an early analytic philosopher who was working at the same time as people like Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell. Gary and I also talk about the positive philosophical value of writing about other people’s ideas, and the question of what it means to point out that Jones may have anticipated the work of Frege. Gary closes by offering some suggestions for where to start with reading Jones’s work.
E. E. Constance Jones’s texts “Practical Dualism;” “Professor Sidgwick’s Ethics;” “Henry Sidgwick” from Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics; A New Law of Thought and Its Logical Bearings; “Mr. Moore on Hedonism;” others can be found in the bibliography of Gary’s SEP article.
Gottlob Frege, ‘Über Sinn und Bedeutung’ (On Sense and Reference)
Hermann Lotze, Logic, in Three Books: Volume One
François Poulain de la Barre, On the Equality of the Two Sexes
Bertrand Russell, On Denoting
Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics
Anna Maria van Schurman, The learned maid; or, Whether a maid may be a scholar?
Eileen O’Neill, “Disappearing Ink”
Gary Ostertag, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on E. E. Constance Jones
Mary Ellen Waithe, A History of Women Philosophers
Gary Ostertag and Amanda Favia, 2020, “E. E. Constance Jones on the Dualism of Practical Reason,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy.
Christine Ladd-Franklin, 1890, Review of Elements of Logic as a Science of Propositions, Mind, 15: 559–563.
In this episode, Haley Brennan talks with Chike Jeffers, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dalhousie University and Canada Research Chair in Africana Philosophy, about the history of Africana Philosophy. We talk about the work of, and what it is like to work on, figures including Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B Du Bois, Edward Blyden, and Léopold Senghor. In the course of talking about these figures, we discuss the value of language to philosophy, identity, and culture, connections between the Africana tradition and current philosophical theories of race and oppression, the importance of being critical about why and how philosophical methods are appropriate for evaluating these texts, and what it means to read someone as a philosopher.
Selina Wang provided research for this episode.
To listen to this episode go to our podcast page.
Works Mentioned in the Episode
Unless otherwise specified, all works listed are in the public domain and are available free online.
Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South.
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk.
Edward Blyden, “The Origin and Purpose of African Colonization.”
Chike Jeffers, “Embodying Justice in Ancient Egypt: The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant as a Classic of Political Philosophy.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 421-442: 2013.
African-American Philosophers: 17 Conversations, edited by George Yancy. New York: Routledge: 1998.
Listening to Ourselves: A Multilingual Anthology of African Philosophy, edited by Chike Jeffers. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2013.
Souleymane Bachir Diagne, African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bashir, and the Art of Negritude (Translated by Chike Jeffers). New York: Seagull Press, 2011.
Further Reading and References
Chike Jeffers, “Anna Julia Cooper and the Black Gift Thesis.” History of Philosophy Quarterly, 79-97: 2016.
——, “Rights, Race, and the Beginnings of Modern African Philosophy.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Race.
History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps Africana Philosophy Series:
In this episode, Haley Brennan talks with Dalia Nassar, senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. We discuss the works of several German women philosophers in the late 18th and 19th centuries, including Germaine de Staël, Rosa Luxemburg, and Karoline von Günderrode. The women we discuss wrote on a wide range of topics: idealism, phenomenology, feminism, labour movements, workers’ rights, socialism, and environmental ethics. In addition to these topics, we talk about why it is that these women, who published and were discussed in their own time, have not received modern philosophical attention, the accessibility of their philosophical writings, the importance of being aware of the full range of philosophers writing and corresponding in Germany in the 19th century, and the variety of benefits that come from including the works of these philosophers in classes on German philosophy in the 19th century. We also talk about the value of being flexible and open about what counts as philosophical question, and the ways that philosophy can be applicable to real-world issues.
To listen to this episode, please visit our podcast page.
Works by German Women Philosophers Mentioned in the Episode
Unless otherwise specified, all works listed are in the public domain and are available in the original language and (often) in English translation online.
Germaine de Staël, De l’Allemange (On Germany).
Bettina Brentano von Arnim, Die Günderrode.
——, Armenbuch (The Book of the Poor).
Margaret Fuller, “Bettina Brentano and her friend Günderrode.” The Dial Vol VII.
Clara Zetkin, “In Defence of Rosa Luxemburg.”
——, “Social-Democracy and Women’s Suffrage.”
Karoline von Günderrode, “The Idea of the Earth.” Available in English in Women Philosophers in the Long Nineteenth Century: The German Tradition, edited by Dalia Nassar and Kristin Gjesdal.
Rosa Luxemburg, “Wage Labour.” Available in English in Women Philosophers in the Long Nineteenth Century: The German Tradition, edited by Dalia Nassar and Kristin Gjesdal.
Hedwig Dohm, “Nietzsche and Women.” Available in English in Women Philosophers in the Long Nineteenth Century: The German Tradition, edited by Dalia Nassar and Kristin Gjesdal.
Other Works Mentioned
Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy.
Copleston, A History of Philosophy.
Women Philosophers in the Long Nineteenth Century: The German Tradition, edited by Dalia Nassar and Kristin Gjesdal, New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Nassar, Dalia. “The Human Vocation and the Question of the Earth: Karoline von Günderrode’s Philosophy of Nature.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 20, 2021.
It’s time for the second episode of New Voices in Philosophy. In this episode, Olivia Branscum talks with Christina Van Dyke, professor emerita of philosophy at Calvin University, about women philosophers in the medieval Latin west. We discuss the contemplative and mystical traditions of philosophy in the middle ages, which focused on an engaged, practical search for truth rather than the abstract arguments that dominated other philosophical traditions. Many women medieval philosophers – such as Julian of Norwich, Angela Foligno, Catherine of Siena, Hadewijch, Margaret Ebner, and Hildegard von Bingen – were writing in the contemplative and mystical traditions, so recovering their work involves learning about different philosophical forms and genres. We also talk about the value of being yourself when pursuing academic philosophy.
Madeleine Birdsell provided research for this episode. To listen to this episode, please visit our podcast page.
We hope you enjoy! Thanks for listening.
Works by Medieval Women Philosophers Mentioned in the Episode
Julian of Norwich, Shewings: Revelations of Divine Love. Available in modern English from Paulist Press and W.W. Norton & Co.
Angela Foligno, Il Libro della Beata Angela da Foligno (Book of Visions and Instructions). Complete works available in English translation from Paulist Press.
Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue of Divine Providence. Catherine also wrote numerous letters and prayers that remain extant. The Dialogue is available in English translation from Newman Press. An English-language anthology of her main ideas (drawn from the Dialogue, selected letters, and prayers) is available from ACMRS (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies).
Hadewijch composed poems, letters, and a visionary text. Complete works available in English translation from Paulist Press.
Margaret Ebner, Offenbarungen (Revelations). Available in English translation from Paulist Press.
Hildegard von Bingen was a relatively prolific author. Several of her best-known treatises are listed below, all of which can be found in translation.
Scivias (Know the Ways), available in English translation from Paulist Press.
Liber Vitae Meritorum (Book of the Rewards of Life), available in English translation from Garland.
Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works/Book of the Operations of God), available in English translation from The Catholic University of America Press.
Physica, available in English translation from Healing Arts Press.
Causae et Curae (Causes and Cures), available in English translation from MedievalMS.
Other Texts Mentioned in the Episode
The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy, ed. Robert Pasnau in association with Christina Van Dyke.
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
Articles by Christina on medieval contemplative philosophy:
"From Meditation to Contemplation: Broadening the Borders of Philosophy in the 13th-15th Centuries" (for Pluralizing Philosophy’s Past – New Reflections in the History of Philosophy, eds. A. Griffioen and M. Backmann, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)
“Taking the ‘Dis’ out of ‘Disability’: Martyrs, Mothers, and Mystics in the Middle Ages” (for Disability in Medieval Christian Philosophy and Theology, ed. S. Williams, Routledge Press)
“Medieval Mystics on Persons: What John Locke Didn't Tell You,” for Persons: a History, ed. A. Lolordo (Oxford Philosophical Concepts Series, Oxford University Press, 2019), 123-153.
“The Phenomenology of Immortality,” The History of the Philosophy of Mind.Vol. 2: Philosophy of Mind in the Early and High Middle Ages, ed. M. Cameron. (London: Routledge, 2019), 219-239.
“‘Many Know Much, but Do Not Know Themselves’: The Centrality of Self-Knowledge in the Affective Medieval Contemplative Tradition” in Consciousness and Self-Knowledge in Medieval Philosophy: Proceedings of the Society for Medieval Logic and Metaphysics Volume 14, eds. G Klima and A. Hall (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 89-106.
“What has History to do with Philosophy? Insights from the Medieval Contemplative Tradition” in Philosophy and the Historical Perspective, ed. M. Van Ackeren, Proceedings of the British Academy, Oxford University Press, 214 (2018) 155-170.
“Self-Knowledge, Abnegation, and Fulfillment in Medieval Mysticism,” Self-Knowledge, ed. U. Renz (Oxford Philosophical Concepts Series, Oxford University Press, 2016) 131-145.
“Mysticism,” in The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy, eds. Pasnau and Van Dyke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 720-34.
For information on Christina’s forthcoming book about women medieval contemplatives (and other fun stuff!), visit https://www.cvdphilosopher.net/.
Welcome to the first episode of New Voices in Philosophy. In this episode, Haley Brennan talks with Sergio Gallegos Ordorica, an assistant professor at John Jay College, about the Mexican philosopher Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. We talk about how Sergio became interested in studying Sor Juana as a philosopher, how that study can be complicated by a background in analytic philosophy, some of Sor Juana’s views on love, shame, and the self, and how her identity as a Mexican women shaped her philosophy, including her views on how philosophy can be done absent institutional structures.
Marya Jureidini provided research for this episode. To listent to this episode, please visit our podcast page.
Thank you for listening!
Texts Mentioned/Referred to in the Episode
Works by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
[we highlight in bold some secondary sources that are a good place to start further research]
Other Works Discussed and Mentioned
a post by Haley Brennan and Olivia Branscum
This is New Voices, a podcast from the Extending New Narratives in the History of Philosophy project.
This podcast consists of conversations with contemporary philosophers working on historical philosophers that are members of groups underrepresented or not very often studied or taught in a Western professional philosophical context. We talk about the views of these philosophers: what is interesting about them, what is unique about them, how they fit in to the periods that they were apart of. We also talk about what it is actually like to learn about and promote these ideas as a philosopher today: what benefits there are, what challenges there are, and just how to get going on this work.
The conversation in each episode is between a graduate student and a working philosopher, with input and questions from undergraduate researchers. Altogether, we aim to both introduce new or understudied figures and themes, and show how they have captured interest. The episodes highlight what is valuable and exciting about reading and studying these new voices at all different career stages and with all sorts of different academic backgrounds.
New Voices is produced and hosted by Olivia Branscum and Haley Brennan. Olivia is a graduate student in philosophy at Columbia University who works on late medieval and early modern philosophy of mind and metaphysics, as well as philosophy of art and environmental ethics and aesthetics. Haley is a graduate student in philosophy at Princeton University who works on historical (17th, 18th, and 19th c) and contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of mind, with a focus on the metaphysics and ethics of the self and identity. They are joined by a team of undergraduate researchers with wide-ranging interests in underrepresented figures in philosophy: Madeline Hope Birdsell, Marya Jureidini, Makena Yananiso Kiara, Petru Rosa, and Selina Wang.
We’ve had a lot of fun putting together this podcast, and we hope you tune in! A new episode will be available on the last day of every month, starting with our first episode—an interview with Sergio Gallegos Ordorica on studying Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—on June 30th. Episodes can be found on iTunes, Spotify, or our website, newnarrativesinphilosophy.net/podcast. New Voices is a continuation of the New Narratives in the History of Philosophy podcast: past episodes can be found under that name in all the same places.
[Originally published on Facebook 30 April 2021]
Our third and last poem is called, “On Virtue”, and it also belongs to Phillis’ poetry collection entitled, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” that was published in 1773. As always, a link to the digitized version is provided at the end of this post. Enjoy the poem:
O thou bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound.
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heaven-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss.
Auspicious queen, thine heavenly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,
Arrayed in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give a higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,
O Thou, enthroned with Cherubs in the realms of day!
Here, it seems that Virtue and Wisdom are related, and that Virtue is a means to Wisdom. Ordinary people (the “fool”) cannot reach Wisdom because Wisdom is too high. This could make us “to cease to wonder, and no more attempt/ Thine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound”. What is left for us besides having our soul sinking “into despair”? Virtue. Virtue can not only save us from despair, but also it can serve as a guide to “endless life” and “promised bliss”. In other words, Wheatley is suggesting that Wisdom is not reached directly, but through Virtue. Thus, rather than seeking to be a wise person, she thinks we should seek to become a virtuous person first.
Now, what do you make of “Teach me a better strain”? To me, Wheatley is talking about two things: what is seen and what is not. The colour of our skin is something that is seen; a virtuous soul is something that is not. It would not matter the colour of someone’s skin, for instance, but only whether that person is virtuous.
Digitized Version [Internet Archive]:
[Originally published on Facebook 22 April 2021]
Our second poem is called, “To S.M., a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works”. It belongs to Phillis’ poetry collection entitled, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” that was published in 1773. A link to the digitized version is provided at the end of this post. Here is the poem:
To show the lab’ring bosom’s deep intent,
And thought in living characters to paint,
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live,
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?
Still, wond’rous youth! each noble path pursue,
On deathless glories fix thine ardent view:
Still may the painter’s and the poet’s fire
To aid thy pencil, and thy verse conspire!
And may the charms of each seraphic theme
Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!
High to the blissful wonders of the skies
Elate thy soul, and raise thy wishful eyes.
Thrice happy, when exalted to survey
That splendid city, crown’d with endless day,
Whose twice six gates on radiant hinges ring:
Celestial Salem blooms in endless spring.
Calm and serene thy moments glide along,
And may the muse inspire each future song!
Still, with the sweets of contemplation bless’d,
May peace with balmy wings your soul invest!
But when these shades of time are chas’d away,
And darkness ends in everlasting day,
On what seraphic pinions shall we move,
And view the landscapes in the realms above?
There shall thy tongue in heav’nly murmurs flow,
And there my muse with heav’nly transport glow:
No more to tell of Damon’s tender sighs,
Or rising radiance of Aurora’s eyes,
For nobler themes demand a nobler strain,
And purer language on th’ ethereal plain.
Cease, gentle muse! the solemn gloom of night
Now seals the fair creation from my sight.
This poem shows us that there can be philosophical topics in poetry, topics from Philosophy of Art, or Aesthetics, including: beauty and the problem of expressing the eternal in the human realm, the aesthetical effect provoked by the author and the possibility of such an effect, timelessness or the eternal, including the nature of space in heaven. Wheatley also mentions the relationship between poetry and painting, as if both the poet and the painter conspire. Although we could continue to think broadly about such topics, it is interesting to note one particularity. Both Wheatley and the painter have something in common besides being a creator of life (a “poetes”, ποιητης). They are of the same strain. In this context, we understand “strain” as being of race, generation. By the title, this poem is to a young African painter; by the author, this poem is by an African poet. What would you think that Wheatley had in mind when she wrote this poem about an African painter in 1773?
Digitized version [Internet Archive]: https://archive.org/.../poemsonvariouss.../page/114/mode/1up
Olivia Branscum is a PhD student in Philosophy at Columbia University. She is co-producer of the ENN New Voices podcast