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Newcastle , UK. Somerville College, Oxford.

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Notable work. Spouse s. Geoffrey Midgley m. Contemporary philosophy.

Midgley, Mary, Dr.

Western philosophy. Analytic philosophy [2]. Main interests.

Notable ideas. Humans as ethical primates. Influences [show]. She wrote extensively about what philosophers can learn from nature, particularly from animals. Early life [ edit ]. Midgley was born in London to Lesley and Tom Scrutton. We loved this and worked madly at it, which meant that with considerable efforts on all sides, it was just possible for us to go to college on Classics … I had decided to read Classics rather than English — which was the first choice that occurred to me — because my English teacher, bless her, pointed out that English literature is something that you read in any case, so it is better to study something that you otherwise wouldn't.

Someone also told me that, if you did Classics at Oxford, you could do Philosophy as well. I knew very little about this but, as I had just found Plato, I couldn't resist trying it. Several of her lasting friendships that began at Oxford were with scientists, and she credited them with having educated her in a number of scientific disciplines.

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I do think that in normal times a lot of good female thinking is wasted because it simply doesn't get heard. Career [ edit ].

Instead, she "spent the rest of the war doing various kinds of work that were held to be of national importance". She argues that one of the main flaws in doctoral training is that, while it "shows you how to deal with difficult arguments", it does not "help you to grasp the big questions that provide its context — the background issues out of which the small problems arose.

Awards [ edit ]. Death [ edit ]. Ideas and arguments [ edit ]. Views on philosophy and religion [ edit ]. The great philosophers I would try to pray and it didn't seem to get me anywhere so I stopped after a while. But I think it's a perfectly sensible world view. Nor is it even clear that religion itself is something that the human race either can or should be cured of.

Midgley argues that evil arises from aspects of human nature, not from an external force. She further argues that evil is the absence of good, with good being described as the positive virtues such as generosity, courage and kindness. Therefore, evil is the absence of these characteristics, leading to selfishness, cowardice and similar. She therefore criticises existentialism and other schools of thought which promote the 'Rational Will' as a free agent. She also criticises the tendency to demonise those deemed 'wicked', by failing to acknowledge that they also display some measure of some of the virtues.

She argued that "there's some sort of tendency towards the formation of order", including towards life and "perceptive life". I don't know who to. Gaia and philosophy [ edit ]. This was part of her "principal passion" of "reviving our reverence for the earth". On reductionism and materialism [ edit ]. She argued that human beings are more similar to animals than many social scientists then acknowledged, while animals are in many ways more sophisticated than was often accepted.

She concludes: "These schemes still seem to me to be just displacement activities proposed in order to avoid facing our real difficulties. Midgley argued against reductionism, or the attempt to impose any one approach to understanding the world. We cannot see it as a whole from above, so we peer in at it through a number of small windows We can eventually make quite a lot of sense of this habitat if we patiently put together the data from different angles. But if we insist that our own window is the only one worth looking through, we shall not get very far. She argued that, "acknowledging matter as somehow akin to and penetrated by mind is not adding a new She attacks the understanding inherent in this argument that everything, including a sense of self, can be understood through its physical properties.

This means that thoughts and memories are an integral part of reality for both humans and animals and need to be studied as such. Midgley—Dawkins debate [ edit ]. Midgley disputed this view, arguing that while Dawkins purports to be talking about genes—that is, chemical arrangements—he nonetheless slides over to saying that "we are born selfish" The Selfish Gene , p. She wrote that she had previously "not attended to Dawkins, thinking it unnecessary to ' break a butterfly upon a wheel '.

But Mr Mackie's article is not the only indication I have lately met of serious attention being paid to his fantasies. My central point had no connection with what she alleges. I am not even very directly interested in man, or at least not in his emotional nature. My book is about the evolution of life, not the ethics of one particular, rather aberrant, species.

One should not lose one's temper, and doing so always makes for confused argument The bad feeling between Dawkins and Midgley appeared not to diminish. This is itself a strange faith which ought not to be taken for granted as part of science. It's not an impartial scientific view; it's a political drama. Midgley in art [ edit ]. The book has been likened to a cross between a short story and a philosophical dialogue, as Coetzee's protagonist, Elizabeth Costello, often speaks at length about philosophical ideas. Many reviewers expressed bafflement at the text, which has an enigmatic and riddling style.

As one reviewer noted, "the reader is not quite sure whether he is intended to spot some confusion or contradiction or non-sequitur in [the protagonist's] arguments. Andy Lamey wrote that the result of these and other similarities is that Coetzee's work "evoke[s] a particular conception of ethics, one very similar to that of the philosopher Mary Midgley. Such a view affords a central role to sympathy and is fundamentally opposed to a long-standing rival view, most clearly exemplified by the social contract tradition, which prioritizes an instrumental conception of rationality.

Publications [ edit ]. Routledge, ; revised edition Routledge, University of Georgia Press, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Routledge, ; reprinted with new introduction Bristol Press, Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia.

Mary Midgley - Wikipedia

Imprint Academic, Acumen, Bloomsbury, Selected articles. Comfort, ed.


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