Reading group celebrates ‘Pittsburgh School of Feminist Philosophy’


A reading group run by graduate students in the Department of Philosophy spent last semester recognizing the philosophers who came through Pitt’s program and who specialized in feminist philosophy.

“Pittsburgh has been a remarkably fertile place for feminist philosophy,” said Evangelian Collings, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy. The Pitt program has “a great history of cultivating feminist thought.”

Collings was the organizer of the feminist philosophy discussions last semester and chose to focus on Pittsburgh-related philosophers as a way of community building. The works the group read were by people who came through Pitt as either students, professors or visiting scholars — including Provost Ann Cudd, who received her Ph.D. and master’s in philosophy from Pitt.

Last semester, Collings and others set up a website on the “Pittsburgh School of Feminist Philosophy.” The name is a play on the more well-known “Pittsburgh School of Philosophy,” which focuses on the writings of Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell and Robert Brandom.

The feminist philosophers that the reading group highlighted included:

  • Annette Baier, who taught in the philosophy department from 1973 to 1995, before retiring to her native New Zealand.

  • Tamara Horowitz, who was a member of the Pitt Philosophy Department from 1984 to her death in 2000, at the age of 49. The department hosts an annual lecture in her honor.

  • Iris Marion Young, who taught in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs from 1990 to ’99.

Feminist philosophy, Collings said, can be defined in many ways, but it’s not just a niche. Feminist philosophers deal with mainstream ethics, she said, and feminist theory can be used to help determine if the evidence presented is biased.

After discovering that famed, pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly — who was one of Collings’ childhood heroes — was from the Pittsburgh area, the group adopted her as something of a mascot. They brought a photo of her to each of the meetings.

“Bly is not primarily remembered as a feminist activist. However, her innovative work as an investigative journalist often focused on illuminating the unfair conditions of women’s lives,” the website states

This semester the reading group is looking at feminist philosophy of science, but Collings hopes to return to the “Pittsburgh school” in the fall. The group attracts graduate students and professors. Previously, it also had members from Carnegie Mellon University, and Collings would welcome anyone who wants to join. You can contact the group at

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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