Book Review: Randall Collins' The Sociology of Philosophies,
By Hava Tirosh-Samuelson Metanexus Chronos. 2004.04.15.
What about women?
Obviously when one covers 2500 years of intellectual activity, seven major religious traditions, scores of intellectual networks, and hundreds of individuals, one must leave a lot out and cannot possibly do justice to the material under consideration. There is one particular omission, however, which concerns me most, not as a Jew but as a Jewish woman. Only five female philosophers are mentioned in the book - Ann Conway, Catherine Cockburn, George Elliot, Madame de Stael, and Julia Kristeva.
Collins, I must admit, anticipates this challenge from his readers and in the introduction he raises the questions "where were the women?" In the Introduction he mentions four women, whose names appear again later in the book. Yet, in truth, this book is but another illustration that the story of philosophy is "His-story" rather than "Her-story." This is not a cheap shot on my part simply to waive the feminist "party card" and rebuke Collins for not consulting the massive material that has been collected about the work of female philosophers from ancient Greece to the present. Rather, my point is that Collins's exclusion of the women from the sociological analysis distorts his reconstruction of intellectual networks.
How can one discuss Sartre while omitting Simon de Bauvoir, or Nietzsche without a reference to Lou Andreas-Salome, or Jacques Lacan without a reference to Luce Irigaray? These women are not only crucial to the analysis of the ideas of their male counterparts, they are essential to the critique of their ideas as well as the reception of those ideas. There can be no global theory of intellectual change without paying attention to the dynamic between men and women, and without recognizing that at least half of social reality in which all philosophic activity is embedded includes women.