Rewriting the History - Changing the Future

Women have been contributed to philosophical topics and issues since the Ancient Greece. In 1690, Gilles Ménage published the first-ever history of women philosophers, Historia mulierum philosopharum (History of Women Philosophers), which provides an account of 65 female philosophers from almost 2500 years (A German translation was published by Meiner in 2019). The Paris intellectual Ménage advocated the appointment of women to the Académie française, arguing that their contributions had greatly enriched science and philosophy. Nearly 100 years later, in 1775, Christian August Wichmann wrote the German encyclopedia Geschichte berühmter Frauenzimmer (History of Famous Women).

Although remarkable studies on the work of women philosophers exist, ranging from overviews to monographs, their names remain unmentioned in relevant encyclopedias and introductions to philosophy. This applies in particular to philosophy of science and the history of logic, mathematics and physics. Nowadays, the awareness of the importance of female philosophers is growing. This is demonstrated not least by a number of research projects and funding priorities at universities worldwide which offer problem-oriented, integrative, systematic and innovative approaches that have the potential to reform and diversify philosophy as a discipline. 

Briding the Gap

My work on women philosophers and scientists is based on two normative pillars:

  1. Research on women philosophers and scientists is not a party-political, ideology-soaked fad of our time. It contributes to gender equality and should be seen as integral part of the UN human rights treaties.
  2. History of science and philosophy of science go hand in hand. To recall the well-known doctrine by Imre Lakatos, based on Immanuel Kant: "Philosophy of science without history of science is empty; history of science without philosophy of science is blind" (Lakatos 1970, 91). Learning from history does not guarantee that we can solve current problems and open questions, but this knowledge contributes to a better understanding and handling of these problems and questions. "Only those who know the past can understand the present and shape the future." This sentence, attributed to the Social Democrat August Bebel, gains a special, modified meaning against the background of the promotion of women and gender equality: "Only those who are able to rethink the past can shape the future."