The partnership brings together more than 85 academic scholars and librarians worldwide. It will include training young philosophy researchers in digital research methods, to creating a new generation of scholars eager to pursue new lines of inquiry into neglected historical philosophical figures.
Shapiro joined SFU’s philosophy department in 2002 and first noticed the absence of women philosophers while working on her doctoral dissertation.
‘Since we don’t know of any women philosophers of the period there must not be any’ was—and still is—a common view. They were often described as ‘learned ladies’, dismissed as mere love interests of male philosophers, and their work thus discounted.
However, Shapiro’s research on the 17th century philosopher René Descartes included his correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia. Although Elisabeth corresponded extensively with Descartes, questioning and exploring his philosophical principles in depth, she herself was not considered a philosopher. Her writing is only now recognised as having philosophical worth on its own.
As Shapiro notes however, exclusion shapes the compilation, or canon, of recognized philosophers.
“Overlooking writings simply because they don’t fit a standard form means we don’t learn from a huge number of voices.”
Shapiro says wider recognition for women philosophers will bring Elisabeth, Marguerite Porete, Gabrielle Suchon, Olympe de Gouges, Sophie de Grouchy, Karolina van Günderrode, and many others, to prominence.
The grant also aligns with the university’s equity and diversity initiative (EDI) and next year’s 30th anniversary of Canada’s first credit course in Women Studies. in SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).“Our goal is to effect change within the discipline,” says Shapiro. “If we can change our understanding of our intellectual past we can also change the way we value contributions in the present.”