lundi 27 juillet 2020


   Il y a déjà été question souvent dans ce blog de Susan Stebbing ( Les femmes s'en balancentBergson bashing, La redevance du  fantôme).  Son cas m'intéresse. Je suis très

    Comme cela déjà été suggéré par Ange Scalpel, son cas aurait pu être un objet de réflexion pour les féministes d'aujourd'hui. Mais manifestement, ses doctrines positivistes et sa défense de la philosophie analytique, le fait qu'elle soit une logicienne, la rendent moins attrayante que les théoriciennes féministes le plus célèbres, qui se sont essentiellement réclamées de l'existentialisme, du marxisme, de la psychanalyse et de la pensée déconstructrice ou post-moderne. Elle ne peut qu'incarner à leurs yeux le péché majeur:  penser comme un mâle, selon les canons de la raison masculine et patriarcale.

  Siobhan Chapman, dans Susan Stebbing and the language of Common sense (Palgrave 2013)  écrit :

"This remains a significant factor in reconsidering her importance today, against the background of what Mary Ellen Waithe has described as the ‘myth ... that philosophy is the stuff of only the greatest male intellects’ and the emphasis of feminist historians of philosophy such as Charlotte Witt on ‘retrieving women philosophers’ from obscurity: on demonstrating that the contribution of women to philosophy has been more extensive than the traditionally constructed canon allows. Stebbing was never keen that attention should be drawn to her status as a ‘woman philosopher’; she preferred, for instance, to be referred to by ‘the bare surname without academic title or sex denomination’.But she was harsh in her criticism of anything that she saw as unthinking prejudice, including prejudice on the basis of sex; her chief concern was to take her part in mainstream philosophical discussion as an
unquestioned equal to her male contemporaries. She did not write about the type of philosophical topics typically associated with women, concentrating on rational thought, and more specifically on
logic, subjects that some have seen as anathema to women’s way of thinking. Some pragmatists have suggested that women philosophers should embrace pragmatism because of the scope it affords to
different viewpoints and experiences. Yet Stebbing rejected pragmatism. It is tempting to say that Stebbing would have applauded Else Barth’s assessment that ‘women’s work, and women’s voices, are not to be tucked away in separate corners of the academic world. They are to be put where they belong, right in the heart of each academic field and (sub)discipline’,and perhaps even more strongly Mary Warnock’s argument that ‘the truths which philosophers seek must aim to be not merely generally, but objectively, even universally, true. Essentially they must be gender-indifferent’. (p.5)

      Le moins que l'on puisse dire est que le féminisme à la Mary Warnock, à la Susan Haack, voire même à la Jennifer Hornsby, a vécu

    Une femme philosophe comme Susan Stebbing a toutes les chances d'apparaître aux yeux de ses consoeurs comme la "femme de service" , celle qui sert à justifier l'oppression masculine, tout comme il y a des "nègres de service" dans les séries télé américaines. On ne sait pas ce qui ,chez elles, serait le plus honni chez les féministes d'aujourd'hui: être une alliée du patriarcat en acceptant un poste universitaire dans un système essentiellement mâle, ou bien penser comme un mâle en faisant de la logique et de la philosophie analytique?

      Stebbing eut à subir le sexisme, le patriarcat de la philosophie anglaise, univers avant elle quasi exclusivement masculin.Quand elle devint en 1933 la première professeur de philosophie de son sexe dans l'université britannique, elle rencontra bien des oppositions (Chapman , op. cit p.75-76). Mais elle participait depuis longtemps à la profession. Elle participait à l'Aristotleian Society  et à la Mind Association, co-dirigeait la revue la plus en pointe de la philosophie analytique de l'époque, Analysis, et enseignait la philosophie à Bedford College depuis longtemps comme Reader. Un des arguments pour nommer professeur était qu'elle avait reçu des offres pour devenir professer aux Etats Unis. Mais lorsqu'en 1938 la chaire de E Moore à Cambridge fut vacante, et qu'elle envisagea de se présenter, ce fut une autre affaire. Chapman raconte l'épisode ( op cit p. 126-7):

     "During 1938 Stebbing was also grappling with a hard decision thatcould have significant consequences for her own career. G. E. Moore, who was due to turn 65 in November, would be retiring from the chair  of philosophy at Cambridge that he had held since 1925, and Stebbing
was thinking of applying for the post. By the first day of 1938 she appeared to have made up her mind, clearly after consulting with some of the relevant people at Cambridge. In a postscript to a letter to Lillian, she confides that ‘I’ve decided to send my name in for the Cambridge Chair – I’ve been urged by some more “influential” people, but at the same time I hear – very unofficially, that there is opposition’.

    Applications were not required for another year yet, and in January 1939 she informed Edna and Lillian that she had applied, but after some reluctance and now in a rather equivocal state of mind as
to whether she actually wanted the job. She was finally piqued into applying by a throw-away remark from Ryle. Stebbing seems to have been surprised by the strength of her own reaction to Ryle’s casual
sexism, and her report of the event is worth quoting: On Thursday, Ryle (the Oxford lecturer who read a paper at our Philos Soc. last Thursday evening) annoyed me by saying (re the appointment)
‘Of course everyone thinks you are the right person to succeed Moore, except that you are a woman’. (I don’t swear those were his words – but as nearly as I remember!) I like Ryle & think him quite
good & can give him good wishes for success. He told me he was applying & I told him I was, & he was frankly amazed. I didn’t tell him till after he had made his fatuous remark about a woman – & I
told him I thought that was the one clearly irrelevant point. Then I felt I must make the application in ‘form’.

     The remark that spurred Stebbing into action may have seemed fatuous  to her but it was not the last she was to hear of this attitude. The day after she wrote this account of her exchange with Ryle, she received a letter from Braithwaite in which he commented in passing in relation to the appointment of Moore’s successor that ‘your being a woman would of course prevent you from applying’. Stebbing describes this as ‘An odd remark – since he was one of those who first told me that “we” all want you (i.e., L.S.S)’. Stebbing’s confusion at the mixed messages from Cambridge is apparent; she concludes that ‘This is getting somewhat muddled’. It is possible that Braithwaite, after initially encouraging her to apply, was now giving her an informal indication that the Cambridge faculty would not countenance the appointment of a woman. Stebbing had made history six years earlier by becoming the first female professor of Philosophy in Britain, but that was in London. A Cambridge professor would by rights be entitled to membership of the  Council of the Senate and therefore full membership of the University, something not yet officially allowed to women. In fact later in the same year, in May 1939, the first female professor was appointed, in Archeology. Aware of the paradox about University membership, the Vice Chancellor is alleged to have responded to the news by announcing to the appointment panel ‘Gentlemen, you have presented us with a problem.  It seems that, regardless of attitudes over in Archeology, the battle for a woman philosopher was not one that Braithwaite and his colleagues were prepared to fight. At much the same time Wittgenstein was apparently going through his own hesitant process of decision making concerning the Cambridge
chair. His biographer Ray Monk records that by January 1939 he had finally decided to apply, but that ‘He was, in any case, convinced that he would not be elected, partly because one of the other applicants  was John Wisdom, whom he felt sure would get it, and partly because one of the electors was R. G. Collingwood of Oxford, a man who was sure to disapprove of Wittgenstein’s work’. In the end, any opposition to Stebbing on the grounds that she was a woman was probably immaterial.
No other applicant was realistically likely to be appointed once Wittgenstein had declared his candidacy. As Monk explains: ‘By 1939 he was recognised as the foremost philosophical genius of his time. “To refuse the chair to Wittgenstein,” said C. D. Broad, “would be like refusing Einstein a chair in physics.”’.

   Comme on sait, Wittgenstein refusait les femmes dans ses séminaires. Mais il détestait Stebbing également, et elle réciproquement.
    Dans son obituaire sur Stebbing, en 1943 dans Mind, John Wisdom cite un passage de son livre Philosophy and the Physicists (1938) : 

" Our greed, our stupidity and lack of imagination, and apathy, these are the factors upon which the present sorry state of the world is largely consequent , and " Our limitation is due not to ignorance, . . . but to the feebleness of our desires for good. " 

Elle savait de quoi elle parlait .

Stebbing n'était certainement pas féministe , en tous cas au sens qui domine aujourd'hui. Elle demandait juste qu'on ne  considère pas son sexe comme une objection à ses accomplissement et à ses thèses. Mais il est extraordinaire que les féministes d'aujourd'hui ne soient pas capables de voir qu'elle défendait bien mieux le féminisme qu'elles. Je me demande même si elle a pu simplement imaginer à l'époque une minute l'idée que le fait d'être une femme puisse constituer un argument en faveur de sa philosophie.

Angela Cleps, logichienne

Gilbert Ryle

2 commentaires:

  1. DjileyDjoon@orange.fr27 juillet 2020 à 11:48

    Il y a quand même eu Elizabeth Anscombe, la Simone de Beauvoir de Wittgenstein, à laquelle Vincent Descombes a consacré sa vie. Mais il est vrai que les analytiques ont été délaissées par les philosophes du "care", qui ont évolué vers l'intersectionnalité militante. D'ailleurs on dit que la philosophie morale d'Anscombe est à l'origine de l'éthique de la vertu. D'autre part, les études du genre n'abordent jamais le genre sous l'angle de la logique des universaux, mais plutôt dans la tradition d'une sociologie empirique à la Edgar Morin, et d'inspiration déconstructiviste. De l'école existentialiste, il reste un massif incontournable dans les médias et l'université, la pensée d'Hannah Arendt.

  2. Que je sache, Anscombe n'a jamais été particulièrement féministe, au moins au sens où elle aurait défendu des positions théoriques féministes. Aucun thomiste ne peut dire qu'on ne naît pas femme mais qu'on le devient et que "femme"est une construction sociale.