5 great books by women philosophers to check out this International Women’s Day

I know I don’t post here as much as I should, or even as much as I’d like to. I hope to change that – and what better opportunity than International Women’s Day?

There are so many wonderful books on the history of philosophy written by women, that any attempt at writing an exhaustive list is beyond my capacities on a Thursday afternoon. Instead, I thought I’d keep my list to philosophers currently working in the history of philosophy, and in particular those whose texts I’d read or re-read relatively recently – so these are all books that are somewhat fresh on my mind, or which had a big impact on the course of my own PhD studies in some way. I couldn’t pick a favourite, so the list is in no particular order.

1. Genevieve Lloyd – The Man of Reason

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I don’t know if Lloyd’s book should count as a “history of philosophy” book – the point it makes is very meta-philosophical. It is however one of the formative texts for my approach to the history of philosophy, and it gives us an important reminder of the way our conceptions of gender have shaped our thoughts.

2. Jacqueline Broad – Women Philosophers of the Seventeenth Century

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This book introduced me to a several figures I’m now working on, and is brilliantly clear and lucid in presenting and contextualising these womens’ ideas.

3. Lilli Alanen – Descartes’ Concept of the Mind

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There is a longstanding caricature of Descartes that analytic philosophers of mind like to bring out in week one of survey courses on their topic to pose him as a boogeyman who had terrible ideas. Alanen is a strong and powerful opponent of that caricature, and this book is an excellent study of Descartes’ philosophy of mind.

4. Susan James – Passion and Action

passion and action cover

This is the single best book on early modern philosophical theories of the passions. It’s so good that it’s worth reading and rereading frequently to catch all of the nuance.

5. Catherine Wilson – Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity

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This was one of those books that shifted completely the course of my education. I got it somewhat on a whim – my, then, honours supervisor was reading it and said it was good. I bought it, because he seemed a good model to emulate. Wilson’s philosophical prose set a new standard for what I expect of myself in terms of detail, clarity and persuasiveness. And frankly, it’s just a really great topic.

2 thoughts on “5 great books by women philosophers to check out this International Women’s Day”

  1. Which one would I like to read? I am a modern day Philosopher. I have written three novels currently working on fourth novel. I am attempting to bring this new philosophy into the story I am telling. I hope you can pick the right book for me to read with this info.

    1. I’d go with Women Philosophers of the Seventheenth Century – it covers several figures, so it might be most useful for you

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