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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

In philosophy, one must start from scratch - and 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.

When images of the concentration camps emerged, Foot wrote: 'We had thought something like this could not happen'. And when the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima, Anscombe saw a terrifying new possibility: by signing his name at the foot of an order, US President Harry Truman had been able to act on so vast a scale as to end the war by killing hundreds of thousands. How, they asked, do we find our way through the darkness of what we have created? Not even the great thinkers of the past or the logical innovators and Existentialists of the early 20th 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.

What is freedom? What is real? What is human goodness? As creatures who use language - as human animals - it is in our nature to ask these questions. We are metaphysical animals. And the answers we give shape what we will become.

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 brought philosophy back to life and created a way of ethical thinking that is there for us today.

©2022 Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman (P)2022 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Women struggling to be acknowledged

An interesting account of how twentieth century women surged forward into the academic world, despite much opposition.

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Loved it!

Absorbing story of four great women philosophers who questioned and stood their ground against the male dominated realists at Oxford University when an honour was to be conferred on President Truman for ending the war in Japan with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They maintained a position for ethics, compassion and human dignity in philosophy which was in danger of being talked away by scientific method.

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Compelling

A superb performance of an intriguing text charting the lives, loves and intellectual development of four women struggling to make their way in the male-dominated world of post-war oxbridge. A book that you want to revisit many times.

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An inspiring story

A great mix: rich biographical and historical detail combined with a fascinating account of the philosophical debates of the 20th centuries. Enough of each to suit those more interested in one aspect than the other. Reading was superb.