**AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4'S BOOK OF THE WEEK**
'[A] splendidly entertaining book, fizzing with character and incident' Spectator
'Invigorating... told with terrific fluency and humour' Sunday Times
'In philosophy, one must start from scratch - & it takes a very long time to reach scratch'
Iris Murdoch, Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe were philosophy students at Oxford during the Second World War when most male undergraduates (and many tutors) were conscripted. Taught by refugee scholars, women and conscientious objectors, the four friends developed a philosophy that could respond to the war's darkest revelations.
How, they asked, do we find our way through the devastation of what we have created? Not even the great thinkers of the past or the logical innovators and Existentialists of the early twentieth century could make sense of this new human reality. So, in search of an answer, the four friends set out to bring philosophy back to life.
Written with expertise and flair, Metaphysical Animals is a vivid blend of philosophy and recovered history - bringing back the women who shared ideas, as well as sofas, shoes and even lovers. Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman show how from the disorder and despair of the war, four brilliant friends reinvigorated philosophy and created a way of ethical thinking that remains with us today.
This edifying debut by philosophy professors Cam Cumhaill and Wiseman tells the stories of four female philosophy pioneers: Mary Midgley, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch. Through interviews with Midgley and "fragments from letters, journals, photos, conversations, notebooks, reminiscences and postcards," the authors detail how these women broke into the male-dominated field of philosophy, beginning with the quartet's time together as Oxford students during WWII and following their intellectual trajectories over the ensuing decades. Biographical anecdotes illuminate how these philosophers connected "seemingly abstract and esoteric enquiries with... urgent and real ethical, practical and spiritual questions," including, for example, how Nazi atrocities convinced Midgley to pursue moral philosophy at a time when linguistics dominated the field, and how Harry S. Truman's responsibility for civilian deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki spurred Anscombe to protest Oxford awarding him an honorary degree. Though the prose can be dense, the research is thorough and provides a cogent counternarrative to traditional male-centric histories of mid 20th-century philosophy. These four philosophers might not appear on standard syllabi, but this detailed chronicle makes a persuasive case that they should. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency.