Last Updated on June 12, 2022 by Lil Ginge
There are lots of incredible and brilliant women working in philosophy today. Unfortunately, you may not be familiar with their work in a disciplinary landscape that still feels dominated by male thinkers. In this article, I want to highlight some of the great women philosophers who are working today,
According to data from Zippia, there are 2,144 philosophers working in the United States today. I assume this means mostly full-time, tenure-track philosophy professors, but the data does not specify. Still, the number would seem to exclude many of the various and sundry adjuncts and such currently working.
Of this sample, 69.2% of philosophers in the United States are male while only 20.9% of philosophy professors are women. The genders of 9.9% of philosophers are unknown. But if the ratio held, we’d still have only around 23% of all philosophy professors being women. Compare that with 51% of the total population being women.
Further, it seems this ratio has held roughly steady since at least 2010 and probably far longer. (Or it may have slightly improved over time). I wouldn’t hold any of these exact stats as gospel, but I think the rough trend is clear – men probably dominate philosophy by a ratio of more than 2:1
Despite this clear gender bias in the profession, there truly are some amazing women in philosophy today. Here are five you should know about.
Five Women in Philosophy You Should Know
Laura Franklin-Hall is an associate professor of philosophy at New York University (NYU) in New York, New York. Prof. Franklin-Hall earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2008 and also holds a BS in Biological Sciences from Stanford University (2000). Her main areas of research and interest in philosophy include the philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and the epistemology of philosophy.
Professor Franklin-Hall divides her work up into three groups of questions including:
- Kinds and categories: Why do we “carve up the world” into the kinds and categories that we do?
- Scientific explanation: What is the nature of scientific explanation and how does explanation in biology function versus explanation in the other sciences?
- High-Level Sciences in a physical world: Given the physical nature of the universe, how are we able to understand the way it all works?
Current projects Professor Franklin-Hall is working on include work on the nature of the biological sexes, the objectivity of explanation, and historical versus synchronic categories in science.
Professor Franklin-Hall has been an Associate Professor of Philosophy at New York University since 2016. During her time in graduate school at Columbia, she studied with Professor Philip Kitcher and wrote her dissertation “From a Microbiological Point of View.” You can learn more about Laura Franklin-Hall’s philosophical work here.
Prof. Susanna Schellenberg is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her main areas of interest include philosophy of mind, epistemology, artificial intelligence (AI), and neuroscience including subspecialties in
- mental representation
- biased algorithms
Her current research, funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Mellon New Directions Fellowship, and an NEH grant, focuses on the intersection of AI, neuroscience, and philosophy. Part of this project includes papers on the neural basis of perception and a book about subjective perspectives.
Professor Schellenberg received her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007, writing her dissertation Perception in Perspective. Her books include The Unity of Perception: Content, Consciousness, Evidence (Oxford University Press, 2018). This book won an honorable mention for the American Philosophical Association 2019 Sanders Book Prize. You can learn more about Professor Schellenberg’s philosophical work here.
Prof. Elizabeth Harman is the Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and also part of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Professor Harman works on a wide variety of topics in moral philosophy. Some of her research projects and philosophical explorations include
- human actions above and beyond what morality requires / heroic actions
- the moral status, harm, and ethics of procreation
- moral ignorance and uncertainty
- moral reasoning and regret
Part of Professor Harman’s role at Princeton includes editing a book series for Princeton University Press called Insights: Short Works of Philosophy. She also created and runs the Athena in Action Networking and Mentoring Workshops for Graduate Student Women in Philosophy along with Elisabeth Camp and Jill North. Her published books include the Norton Introduction to Ethics, co-edited with her husband Alexander Guerrero (forthcoming), and the forthcoming book When To Be a Hero.
Professor Harman has been the Rockefeller Professor at Princeton since July of 2016. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in September 2003. And she graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in 1997. You can learn more about Professor Harman’s philosophical work here.
Amie L. Thomasson
One of my longtime favorites, Professor Amie L. Thomasson is currently the Chair of the Dartmouth philosophy department and the Daniel P. Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy. Her major areas of specialization include both metaphysics and metametaphysics, philosophy of art and literature, philosophy of mind, and phenomenology. Subspecialties include her work on metaphysical topics like artifacts, fictional characters, and socio-cultural objects.
Her current focus is on answering the question of how much philosophy at large and metaphysics, in particular, can legitimately accomplish and how it can be done. Her large body of work includes four books: Norms and Necessity, Fiction and Metaphysics, Ordinary Objects, and Ontology Made Easy, the latter of which won the Sanders Book Prize by the American Philosophical Association (APA). She was recently named one of the “50 most influential living philosophers”, but she’s far higher up on the list of current philosophers who have influenced yours truly.
In her prestigious career, Thomasson has held fellowships with both the National Endowment of the Humanities and been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the academic year of 2022-23. Her fellowship is being put towards her work on a book called Rethinking Metaphysics. In addition to these awards, she won a 2022 Pufendorf Metal. You can learn more about Amie Thomasson’s work here.
Professor Carol Rovane is the Violin Family Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Her work focuses largely on issues in metaphysics and moral philosophy/ethics. This includes the nature of the first person, personal identity, relativism, the foundations of value, group versus individual responsibility, and some issues in liberal theory. The nature of “points of view” has been a longtime core theme of her research.
Professor Rovane’s books include The Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics and The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism. She also has two forthcoming books: Out of Order: An Introduction to Philosophy via Columbia’s Core Curriculum and What Are Individuals and Why Do They Matter? Taking Liberalism to Logical and Illogical Limits.
Professor Carol Rovane is the 2015 Winner of the Lenfest Award at Columbia University. In addition to her research, Prof. Rovane is a fantastic teacher. On her teaching, she has said:
Unless a course is intended to be strictly historical, my aim is not that students should learn about philosophy, but that they should start doing it. Rather than simply learning about things like natural rights, they must work out whether they actually believe there are such things as natural rights, and why or why not.– Professor Carol Rovane on teaching philosophy at the college level
On her preferred style of teaching, Prof. Rovane adds, “My least favorite kind of teacher is the ‘charismatic’ sort who relies more on personality than on the merits of the material. My least favorite kind of student is the ‘dutiful’ sort who is unwilling to challenge the teacher.” While her teaching is charismatic, she most of all draws heavily on interesting philosophy material to impart knowledge that her students will cherish for life. And to help them become philosophers themselves.
If you enjoyed this article on Five Women in Philosophy You Should Know, be sure to check out my article on ontological pluralism here.