Creating a place for women-centered philosophy

By Mount Mary University

Posted on April 10, 2019

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The women philosophers of Mount Mary are transforming the field, enlarging the canon of known philosophers and teaching philosophy in a style that is inclusive of all people.

Because every undergraduate takes philosophy, Mount Mary has a commitment to making philosophy accessible to every student. This requires allowing our students to bring their lived experiences to the seminar table as we discuss the basic human questions of life, a practice we credit in part to the pedagogy that Jim Conlon used and taught his colleagues over the last 40 years.

At Mount Mary, students do learn about Plato and Descartes, but they also learn about Sappho, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Simone de Beauvoir and bell hooks.

Jim, when he was department chair, required that every course feature at least one woman thinker on the syllabus. This requirement remains, stretching faculty and new adjuncts to continually look beyond the male Western canon to include all the voices. The canon taught at Mount Mary is not one tailored just for women, but is one that is a better representation of the actual history of ideas.

This spring, the book, “Just in Time: Moments in Teaching Philosophy (A Festschrift Celebrating the Teaching of James Conlon)” will be released. The book takes the five papers that were presented in 2017 at the  symposium for Jim’s retirement and puts them together with three of his previously published papers, all about significant philosophical issues and how we teach them. This book will be a handbook for philosophy teachers outside of Mount Mary who share our commitment to showing philosophy’s relevance to all students.

The department will be hosting the Wisconsin Philosophical Association in April. The event attracts both faculty and graduate students and usually features between 24 and 50 papers. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase our outstanding philosophy students.

A great deal of the success of our program is, of course, due to the energy and passion of our students. Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a story on our Philosophy Club’s activities. The Mount Mary University Philosophical Association has been particularly active in the last two years, hosting panels on current events, showing films, meeting for discussions, and fundraising for a new fireplace for the Caroline Hall Student Lounge.

The newspaper story highlighted the grand opening of the new gas fireplace and the opportunities for Mount Mary students to gather on cold days to discuss philosophy. The event provided a lovely metaphor for the philosophy program at Mount Mary in general, a space where everybody is invited to discuss together as they pursue a meaningful and flourishing life.

Philosophy is a meaningful pursuit at Mount Mary, thanks to the legacy of Jim Conlon and the women of Mount Mary who carry it forward.

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