Analytic philosophy is associated with a line of founding fathers, and the schools and movements that grew around them. Most of the questions that preoccupy Western academic philosophy today stem from, or have been shaped by, those schools. But those were not the only voices in the philosophical arena. Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch became friends as undergraduates at Oxford University during WWII, and remained life-long philosophical companions. During their time at Oxford, they developed a shared philosophical agenda, method, and stance which, as we will explore, marks them out as a distinct philosophical school. This reading group is part of a project aimed to elicit recognition of the body of work of these women as a school of thought, and to reclaim their philosophy afresh for today.

The reading group will run alongside The Royal Institute’s Centenary Celebration lecture series, dedicated to the work of these women, as a complementary resource. The meetings start on 18 October, running on Thursday nights from 6 – 7 pm.

These sessions will be taken by Ana Barandalla, Research Associate at In Parenthesis.

Here’s the reading list — note, it might change.

Week one: 18thOctober 2018

Mary Midgley, ‘Then and Now’ (available at

Week two: 25thOctober 2018

Mary Midgley, Evolution as a Religion, chs. 1-4. Routledge, 1985.

Week three: 1stNovember 2018

Mary Midgley, ‘Rings and Books’, MS. (available at

Iris Murdoch, ‘Against Dryness’, 1961. Variously available. E.g.; Existentialists and Mystics, Penguin Books, 1997.

Week four 8thNovember 2018

Midgley, What is Philosophy For?, chs. 1-4. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

Week five: 15thNovember 2018

Nakul Krishna, ‘Is Goodness Natural?’

Week six: 22ndNovember 2018

Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, ch.5.Oxford University Press, 2001.

Iris Murdoch, ‘The Idea of Perfection’, pp. 1 – 23.

Week seven: 29thNovember 2018

Mary Midgley, ‘The Concept of Beastliness’, Philosophy 48 (184):111-135 (1973)

Week eight: 6thDecember 2018

Elizabeth Anscombe, ‘On Promising and its Justice, and Whether it Need be Respected in Foro Interno’, in  Ethics, Religion and Politics: Collected Philosophical Papers, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe, 1st edn edition (Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, 1981).

Week nine: 13thDecember 2018

Mary Midgley, The Solitary Self, chs. 3-4. Routledge, 2010.

Week 10: 17thJanuary 2019

Iris Murdoch, ‘The Idea of Perfection’, pp. 34 (from ‘I have used the word “attention”…’) – 54, in The Sovereignty of Good, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1970.

Simone Weil, ‘Love’, and ‘Attention and Will’, in Gravity and Grace, Routledge, 1963.

Justine Broackes, ‘Iris Murdoch’s first encounters with Simone Weil’, Iris Murdoch Review, pp. 17-20, 2017.

Week 11: 24thJanuary 2019

Elizabeth Anscombe, ‘On Brute Facts’, in Ethics, Religion and Politics: Collected Philosophical Papers, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe, 1st edn edition (Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, 1981).

Week 12: 31stJanuary 2019

‘The Grammar of Goodness: An Interview with Philippa Foot’,The Harvard Review of Philosophy, XI 2003,

Week 13: 7thFebruary 2019

Iris Murdoch, ‘Metaphysics and Ethics’, in Existentialists and Mystics, Penguin Books, 1997.

Week 14: 14thFebruary 2019

Mary Midgley, ‘Philosophical Plumbing’, in Utopias, Dolphins, and Computers, Routledge, 2000.

Week 15: 21stFebruary 2019

Rachael Wiseman and Clare Mac Cumhaill’s ‘Rewriting History: Murdoch, Midgley, Foot and Anscombe as a Philosophical School’, talk at University of Pennsylvania, September 2018. (Text to be made available.)


Week 16: 7thMarch 2019

In Parenthesis Film Night and Review, featuring documentary footage with Mary Warnock and Mary Midgley.