Ten Female Philosophers Who Should Be Studied More

by Max Andrews

Tullia d’Aragona

Hypatia of Alexandria, Hildegard von Bingen, Simone de Beauvoir, and Ayn Rand all enjoy comparative rock star status when it comes to women in the traditionally male-dominated philosophy sphere. But they definitely aren’t the only names when it comes to eking out a place for ladyfolk amongst practitioners. While the following female philosophers boast varying levels of popularity in the classroom, they still offer some amazing ideologies to contemplate, either for class or during personal inquiry. Use them as a starter kit to exploring even more women philosophers who deserve recognition.

  1. Themistoclea:

    One of Delphi’s priestesses earned historical cred as the alleged mentor of no less than Pythagoras himself! The Suda even claims she may have been his sister as well, though no evidence exists either supporting or disproving the statement. Little is known about Themistoclea, though the first mention as the seminal mathematician and philosopher’s educator comes from Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. He talks of her as the one responsible for inspiring Pythagoras’ “moral doctrines,” though he doesn’t comment further on the priestess’ life. In this instance, students would peer more into Themistoclea’s overarching influence through time rather than the woman herself.

  2. Arete of Cyrene:

    Historians and philosophers debate over whether Arete of Cyrene’s father or son established the Cyrenaic school, though it’s entirely possible she herself may have done so and cultural mores pushed for a more patriarchal tale. This philosophy espoused hedonistic pleasures and the pursuit of the positive and avoidance of the negative. Legend has it the influential Arete of Cyrene spent 35 years as an educator and wrote more than 40 books, focusing largely on morals and earning the acclaim of her contemporaries.

  3. Ban Zhao:

    Ban Zhao is commonly accepted as China’s first female historian, and philosophy ranked as one of her many mastered pursuits. In these post-feminist times, some of the teachings in her Lessons for Women doesn’t much resonate across most demographics. But for its time, the postulating about the wonders of female submissiveness and loyalty — even if husbands elect to stray with mistresses — suited and influenced the surrounding culture. However, she also celebrated progressive principles such as educating all women with equal vigor as men. In addition to working as a philosopher, Ban Zhao taught royalty and served as a court librarian.

  4. Tullia d’Aragona:

    As a courtesan, Tullia d’Aragona enjoyed more intellectual and creative freedom than her peers outside the profession. Her childhood involved an education with Cardinal Luigi d’Aragona, and she later grew into one of Italy’s most cherished Renaissance poets. When it comes to philosophy, On the Infinity of Love applied Neo-Platonist sensibilities to romance and female sexual empowerment. Which makes perfect sense, considering the era’s fascination with the movement! The book comes styled as a dialogue between Benedetto Varchi, Lattanzio Benucci, and the author herself.

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