Mary Midgley

Mary Scrutton was born in 1919 and studied Classics at Somerville College, Oxford (1938-42). During the war she worked in the Civil Service before returning to Oxford to begin a PhD with E. R. Dodds on Plotinus. She taught for four terms at Reading (1949-50). In 1950 she married fellow-philosopher Geoffrey Midgley and moved with him to Newcastle upon Tyne. When their three children were teenagers she took a teaching post at Newcastle University, where she remained until the department’s closure in 1980. She died in 2018.

Midgley is best known for her book Beast and Man and for her public support of Gaia theory. She wrote about human nature at a time when the subject was taboo and was one of the first philosophers in Britain to take animals and nature seriously as philosophical topics. She wrote for the public about the necessity of ‘philosophical plumbing’—the task of understanding and transforming our concepts, especially when those concepts are out of date or causing practical problems. She was a fierce advocate for the history of ideas.

Mary Midgley


Mary Midgley (1919-2018)

1919 13 September: Born in London to Lesley and Tom Scrutton.
1937 Took the Oxford University entrance exam, and was awarded a place at Somerville College, studying Honour Moderations and Literae Humaniores (Mods and Greats), alongside Iris Murdoch. Midgley went on to graduate with first-class honours.
1942 Left Oxford and went into the civil service.
1947 Returned to Oxford to do graduate work with Gilbert Murray, and in particular, began to do research on Plotinus’ view of the soul.
1949 Began teaching in the philosophy department of Reading University, where she remained for four terms.
1950 Married Geoffrey Midgley, who was also a philosopher.
1952 March: Publication of "The Emancipation of Women," The Twentieth Century,152 (901), pp.217-25.
  July: Publication of "Bishop Butler: A reply," The Twentieth Century, 152 (905)
1959 February: Publication of "Ou Sont les Neiges de ma Tante," The Twentieth Century, pp.168-79.
1962 Began teaching in the philosophy department of Newcastle University, where she held her post until 1980.
1972 July: Publication of "Is ‘Moral’ a Dirty Word?" Philosophy, 47 (181), pp.206-28.
1973 Publication of "The Concept of Beastliness: Philosophy, Ethics and Animal Behaviour," Philosophy,48, pp.111-35.
1974 Publication of "XII—The Neutrality of the Moral Philosopher," Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society, pp.211-29.
  July: Publication of "The Game Game," Philosophy, 49 (189), pp.231-53.
1977 December: Publication of "On Trying Out One’s New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer," The Listener.
1978 April: Publication of "The Objection to Systematic Humbug," Philosophy,53 (204), pp.147-69.
  July: Publication of "More about Reason, Commitment and Social Anthropology," Philosophy, 53 (205), pp.401-3.
  September: Publication of "Freedom and Heredity," The Listener.
  October: Publication of Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).
1979 July: Publication of "Brutality and Sentimentality," Philosophy, 54 (209), pp.385-89.
  October: Publication of "Gene-Juggling," Philosophy, 54 (210), pp.439-58, a response to J.L Mackie’s praise of The Selfish Gene [Richard Dawkins, 1976], in his paper "The Law of the Jungle: Moral Alternatives and Principles of Evolution," Philosophy, 53 (206), 1978, pp.455-64.
  October: Publication of "The All-Female Number," Philosophy, 54 (210), pp.552-4.
1980 Publication of "The Absence of a Gap between Facts and Values" (co-authored with Stephen R. L. Clark), Supplementary Volume of the Aristotelian Society, pp.207-23.
  October: Publication of "Consequentialism and Common Sense," The Hastings Center Report, 10 (5), pp.43-4.
1981 Publication of Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience, (Brighton: Harvester Press).
  Publication of "Why Knowledge Matters" in Animals in Research: New Perspectives in Animal Experimentation, David Sperling (ed), (Oxford: John Wiley & Sons), pp.319-36.
1983 January: Publication of "Human Ideals and Human Needs," Philosophy,58 (223), pp.89-94.
  February: Publication of "Duties Concerning Islands," Encounter, 60, pp.36-43.
  March: Publication of "Towards a New Understanding of Human Nature: The Limits of Individualism" in How Humans Adapt: A Biocultural Odyssey, Donald J. Ortner (ed), (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Press), pp.517-46.
  July: Publication of Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around The Species Barrier, (Athens: University of Georgia Press).
  July: Publication of "Selfish Genes and Social Darwinism," Philosophy, 58 (225), pp.365-77.
1984 March: Publication of "Reductivism, Fatalism and Sociobiology," Journal of Applied Philosophy,1 (1), pp.107-14.
  April: Publication of "De-Dramatizing Darwin," The Monist, 67 (2), pp.205-15.
  Publication of Women’s Choices: Philosophical Problems Facing Feminism, co-authored with Judith Hughes, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
  Publication of Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).
  Publication of the pamphlet "Biological and Cultural Evolution" in Institute for Cultural Research Monograph Series, 20.
  Publication of "Sociobiology," Journal of Medical Ethics, 10, pp.158-60.
  Publication of "On Being Terrestrial," in Objectivity and Cultural Divergence: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture Series 17, S. C. Brown (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.79-91.
1985 Publication of Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears, (London: Methuen).
  Publication of "Persons and Non-Persons," in In The Defence of Animals, Peter Singer (ed), (Oxford: Blackwell), pp.52-62.
  Autumn: Publication of "Philosophising Out in the World," Social Research, 52 (3), pp.447-70.
  October: Publication of "Correspondence" (with Anthony Flew), Journal of Applied Philosophy, 2 (2), pp.293-4.
1987 Publication of "Can Specialisation Damage Your Health?" International Journal of Moral and Social Studies, 2 (1).
  June: Publication of "Evolution as a Religion: A Comparison of Prophecies," Zygon, 22 (22), pp.179-94.
  July: Publication of "The Flight from Blame," Philosophy, 62 (241), pp.271-91.
  August: Publication of "Keeping Species on Ice," in Beyond Bars: The Zoo Dilemma, Virginia MacKenna, Will Travers and Jonathan Wray (eds), (Wellingborough: Thorsons), pp.55-65.
  Fall: Publication of "Embarrassing Relatives: Changing Perceptions of Animals," The Trumpeter,4 (4), pp.17-9.
1988 Publication of "Beasts, Brutes and Monsters" in What is an Animal?, Tim Ingold (ed), (London: Unwin Hyman).
  Publication of "On Not Being Afraid of Natural Sex Differences," in Feminist Perspectives in Philosophy, Morwenna Griffiths, and Margaret Whitford (eds), (London: MacMillan), pp.29-41.
  March: Publication of "Teleological Theories of Morality," in An Encyclopedia of Philosophy, G. H. R. Parkinson (ed), (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "Myths of Intellectual Isolation," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 89, pp.19-32.[1]
1989 Publication of Wisdom, Information and Wonder: What is Knowledge For?, (London: Routledge)
  Publication of "Are You an Animal?" in Animal Experimentation: The Consensus Changes, Gill Langley (ed), (London: MacMillan).
  June: Publication of "The Value of ‘Useless’ Research: Supporting Scholarship for the Long Run," Report by the Council for Science and Society.
  June: Publication of "II—Myths of Intellectual Isolation," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,89 (1), pp.19-32.
  November: Publication of "Practical Solutions," The Hastings Center Report,19 (6), pp.44-5.
1990 Publication of "Why Smartness is not Enough" in Rethinking the Curriculum: Towards an Integrated, Interdisciplinary College Education, Mary E. Clark and Sandra A. Wawritko (eds), (New York: Greenwood Press).
  Publication of "The Use and Uselessness of Learning," European Journal of Education, 25 (3), pp.283-94.
  March: Publication of "Homunculus Trouble, or, What is Applied Philosophy?" Journal of Social Philosophy,21 (1), pp.5-15.
1991 Publication of Can’t We Make Moral Judgements?, (New York: St. Martin’s Press).
  Publication of "Rights-Talk Will Not Sort Out Child-abuse: Comment on Archard on Parental Rights," Journal of Applied Philosophy, 8 (1), pp.103-14.
  Publication of "The Origin of Ethics," in A Companion to Ethics, Peter Singer (ed), (Oxford: Blackwell).
1992 Publication of Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and its Meaning, (London: Routledge)
  Publication of "Towards a More Humane View of the Beasts" in The Environment in Question, David E. Cooper and Joy A. Palmer (eds), (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "The Significance of Species" in The Moral Life, Stephen Luper-Foy and Curtis Brown (eds), (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
  Publication of "Strange Contest, Science versus Religion," in The Gospel and Contemporary Culture, Hugh Montefiore (ed), (London: Mowbray).
  May: Publication of "The Idea of Salvation Through Science," New Blackfriars, 73 (860), pp.257-65.
  May-June: Publication of "Is the Biosphere a Luxury?" The Hastings Center Report,22 (3), pp.7-12.
  Summer: Publication of "Beasts Versus the Biosphere?" Environmental Values,1 (2), pp.113-21.
  August: Publication of "Can science save its soul?: Some scientists have begun to talk confidently about understanding God and creation. They are crediting science with power it doesn’t possess," New Scientist,1832.
  Autumn: Publication of "Reply to Marc Bekoff," Environmental Values, 1 (3), p.256.
  December: Publication of "Philosophical Plumbing" in The Impulse to Philosophise, A. Phillips Griffiths (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
1993 Publication of "The Four-Leggeds, The Two-Leggeds and the Wingeds," Society and Animals,1 (1), pp.9-15.
April: Publication of "Must Good Causes Compete?" Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics,2 (2), pp.133-42.
1994 Publication of The Ethical Primate: Humans, Freedom and Morality, (London: Routledge)
  Publication of "Visions, Secular and Sacred," Milltown Studies,34, pp.74-93.
  Publication of "Darwinism and Ethics" in Medicine and Moral Reasoning, K. W. M. Fulford, Grant Gillett and Janet Martin Soskice (eds), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  Publication of "Bridge-Building at Last" in Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives, Aubrey Manning and James Serpell (eds), (London: Routledge).
  September: Publication of "The End of Anthropocentrism?" in Philosophy and the Natural Environment: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 36, Robin Attfield and Andrew Belsey (eds), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.103-12.
1995 Awarded an honorary D. Litt (Doctorate of Letters) by Durham University.
  Publication of "Reductive Megalomania" in Nature’s Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision, John Cornwall (ed), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "Trouble With Families?" co-authored with Judith Hughes, in Introducing Applied Ethics, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "The Challenge of Science, Limited Knowledge, or a New High Priesthood?" in True to this Earth, Alan Race and Roger Williamson (eds), (Oxford: One World Publications).
  Publication of "The Mixed Community," in Earth Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Animal Rights and Practical Applications, James P. Serba (ed), (New Jersey: Prentice Hall).
  January: Publication of "The Ethical Primate. Anthony Freeman in discussion with Mary Midgley," (co-authored with Anthony Freeman), Journal of Consciousness Studies,2 (1), pp.67-75.
  April: Publication of "Zombies and the Turing Test," Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2 (4), pp.351-2.
  May: Publication of "Darwin’s Central Problems," Science,268 (5214), pp.1196-8.
1996 Publication of Utopias, Dolphins and Computers: Problems of Philosophical Plumbing, (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "One World—But A Big One," Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3 (5-6).
  Publication of "Earth Matters: Thinking about the Environment," in The Age of Anxiety, Sarah Dunant and Roy Porter (eds), (London: Virago).
  Publication of "Science in the World," Science Studies, 9 (2), pp.49-58.
  March: Publication of "Can Education be Moral?" Res Publica, 2 (1), pp.77-85.
  Spring: Publication of "Sustainability and Moral Pluralism," Ethics and the Environment,1 (1), pp.41-54.
  Autumn: Publication of "The View from Britain," (co-authored with Judith Hughes), American Philosophical Association, Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, 96 (1).
1997 Death of Geoffrey Midgley.
  Publication of "Visions of Embattled Science," in Science Today: Problem or Crisis?, Ralph Levinson and Jeff Thomas (eds), (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "The Soul’s Successors: Philosophy and the ‘Body’" in Religion and the Body, Sarah Coakley (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  November: Publication of "Skimpole Unmasked," History of the Human Sciences, 10 (4), pp.92-6.
1998 Publication of "Putting Ourselves Together Again," in Consciousness and Human Identity, John Cornwell (ed), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "The Problem of Humbug," in Media Ethics, Matthew Kieran (ed), (London: Routledge).
  Spring: Publication of "Sorting Out The Zeitgeist: The Moral Philosophy of Iris Murdoch," The Philosopher, 86 (1).
1999 Publication of "The Myths We Live By" in The Values of Science: Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997, Wes Williams (ed), (New York: Westview Press).
  Publication of "Towards an Ethic of Global Responsibility," in Human Rights in Global Politics, Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler (eds), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  Publication of "Should We Let Them Go?" in Attitudes to Animals: Views in Animal Welfare, Francine L. Dolins (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.152-63.
  April: Publication of "Being Scientific about Our Selves," Journal of Consciousness Studies,6 (4), pp.85-98.
  Summer: Publication of "Midgley on Murdoch," The Philosophers’ Magazine,7, pp.45-6.
  October: Publication of "Determinism, Omniscience, and the Multiplicity of Explanations," Behavioural and Brain Sciences,22 (5), pp.900-1.
  Winter: Publication of "The Origins of Don Giovanni," Philosophy Now, 25, p.32.[2]
2000 Publication of Science and Poetry, (London: Routledge)
  Publication of "Human Nature, Human Variety, Human Freedom" in Being Humans: Anthropological Universality and Particularity, Neil Roughley (ed), (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter).
  Publication of "Why Memes?" in Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, Hilary Rose and Steven Rose (eds), (London: Jonathan Cape).
  Publication of "The Need for Wonder" in God for the 21st Century, Russell Stannard (ed), (Templeton Foundation Press).
  Publication of "Consciousness, Fatalism and Science," in The Human Person in Science and Theology, Niels Hendrik Gregerson, Willem B. Drees and Ulf Gorman (eds), (Edinburgh: T & T Clark).
  March: Publication of "Review: Alchemy Revived," The Hastings Center Report, 30 (2), pp.41-3.[3]
  September: Publication of "Biotechnology and Monstrosity: Why We Should Pay Attention to the ‘Yuk Factor,’" The Hastings Center Report,30 (5), pp.7-15.[4]
  December: Publication of "Individualism and the Concept of Gaia," Review of International Studies, 26, pp.29-44.
2001 Co-founded the Gaia Network, alongside David Midgley and Tom Wakeford.
  Publication of Gaia: The Next Big Idea, (London: Demos)
  Publication of "The Problem of Living with Wildness" in Wolves and Human Communities: Biology, Politics and Ethics, Virginia A. Sharpe, Bryan G. Norton and Strachan Donnelley (eds), (Washington D.C: Island Press), pp.179-90.
  Publication of "What Gaia Means," The Guardian.
  Spring: Publication of "Walk on the Dark Side," Philosophers Magazine,14, pp.23-5.
  April: Publication of "Being Objective," Nature, 410 (753).
  October: Publication of "The bankers’ abstract vision of the globe is limited," The Guardian.
  December: Publication of "Heaven and Earth: An Awkward History," Philosophy Now,34.[5]
2002 Publication of "Choosing the Selectors," in The Evolution of Cultural Entities, Michael Wheeler, John Ziman and Margaret A. Boden (eds), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  March: Publication of "Pluralism: The Many Maps Model," Philosophy Now,35.[6]
  September: Publication of "It’s all in the mind," The Guardian.
  October: Publication of "How Real Are You?" Think: A Periodical of the Royal Institute of Philosophy,1 (2), pp.35-46.
  November: Publication of "Enough is never enough," The Guardian.
2003 Publication of The Myths We Live By, (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "Criticising the Cosmos" in Is Nature Ever Evil?: Religion, Science and Value, Willem B. Drees (ed), (London: Routledge), pp.11-26.
  March: Publication of "Fate by fluke," [Review of Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves], The Guardian.
  Spring: Publication of "Science and Poetry," Situation Analysis,2, pp.29-31.
  September: Publication of "Curiouser and curiouser," [Review of Charles Pasternak’s Quest: The Essence of Humanity], The Guardian.
2004 Publication of "Mind and Body: The End of Apartheid," in Science, Consciousness, and Ultimate Reality, David Lorimer (ed), (Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp.173-97.
  Publication of "Science and Poetry," in Values, Education and the Human World, John Haldane (ed), (Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp.219-33.
  Publication of "Atoms, Memes and Individuals," in Values, Education and the Human World, John Haldane (ed), (Exeter: Imprint Academic), pp.234-49.
  Publication of "Do We Even Act?" in The New Brain Sciences: Perils and Prospects, Dai A. Rees and Steven Rose (eds), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.17-33.
  Publication of "Why Clones?" The Scientific and Medical Network Review, 84.
  January: Publication of "Zombies Can’t Concentrate," Philosophy Now,44, pp.13-4.[7]
  June: Publication of "Counting the cost of revenge," [Review of Judith Butler’s Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence], The Guardian.
  August: Publication of "Souls, Minds, Bodies & Planets" (Pt1), Philosophy Now,47.[8]
  October: Publication of "Souls, Minds, Bodies & Planets" (Pt2), Philosophy Now, 48.[9]
  December: Publication of "On the origin of creationism," New Scientist, 2479.
2005 Publication of The Owl of Minerva: A Memoir, (London: Routledge).
  Publication of "Mapping science: in memory of John Ziman," Interdisciplinary Science Reviews,30 (3), pp.195-7.
  Publication of "The Essential Mary Midgley," David Midgley (ed), (London: Routledge).
  January: Publication of "Visions and Values," Resurgence,228.
  October: Publication of "Proud not to be a doctor," The Guardian.
2006 Sits for the sculptor Jon Edgar, as a part of his work, Environment Triptych, which also features James Lovelock, and Richard Mabey.
  March: Publication of "Rethinking sex and the selfish gene: why we do it" (Book review), Heredity, 96 (3), pp.271-2.
  April: Publication of "Dover Beach: Understanding the Pains of Bereavement," Philosophy,81 (2), pp.209-30.
2007 Publication of Midgley (ed) Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia,(Exeter: Imprint Academic).
  May: Publication of "What Do We Mean By Scrutiny," Philosophy Now,61.[10]
  June: Publication of the pamphlet "Intelligent Design Theory and other ideological problems" in Impact, 15.
  August: Publication of "Mary Midgley on Dawkins," Interlog: Exploring Buddhist-Christian Christian-Buddhist Themes.
  November: Publication of "A Plague On Both Their Houses," Philosophy Now,64.[11]
2008 Awarded an honorary D.C.L (Doctorate of Civil Law) by Newcastle University.
  Publication of "Why Farm Animals Matter," in The Future of Animal Farming: Renewing the Ancient Contract, M. Dawkins and R. Bonney (eds), (Oxford: Blackwell), pp.21-32.
  Publication of "Does Science Make God Obsolete? Of Course Not," John Templeton Foundation, pp.11-2.
  July: Publication of "Reason is just another faith," New Scientist, 2666.
  October: Publication of "Cold wars and grand conclusions," The Guardian.
  December: Publication of "All too human," The Guardian.
2009 January: Publication of "Purpose, Meaning and Darwinism," Philosophy Now, 71, pp.16-9.[12]
  February: Publication of "Selectionism can only take us so far," The Guardian.
  April: Publication of "Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 1: Strange selves;" "Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part 2: Freedom and Desolation;" "Hobbes’s Leviathan, Part 3: What is selfishness?" and "Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 4: Selling total freedom," The Guardian.
  May: Publication of "Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 5: The end of individualism;" "Hobbes’s Leviathan, part 6: responses to readers;" "Hobbes’ Leviathan, part 7: His idea of war" and "Hobbes Leviathan, part 8: Can we ride the Leviathan?" The Guardian.
  August: Publication of "Formulas built in myth," The Guardian.
  September: Publication of "Love and its Disappointment" (Review), Philosophy Now,75.[13]
2010 Publication of The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene, (Durham: Acumen).
January: Publication of "The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist" (Book review), The Guardian.
  June: Publication of "The abuses of science," The Guardian.
  August: Publication of "Metaphysics and the limits of science," The Guardian.
2011 Publication of "The Mythology of Selfishness," The Philosophers’ Magazine,53, pp.35-45.
  January: Publication of "The selfish metaphor: Conceits of evolution," New Scientist, 2797.
  February: Publication of "Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey – review," The Guardian.
  October: Publication of "Why the Idea of Purpose Won’t Go Away," Philosophy, 86 (4), pp.545-61.
  November: Publication of "Age is a continuum – not two tribes to be made equal," The Guardian.
2012 January: Publication of "The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake – review," The Guardian.
  March: Publication of "Death and the Human Animal," Philosophy Now, 89.[14]
2014 Publication of Are You an Illusion?, (Durham: Acumen).
July: Publication of "Does Philosophy Get Out of Date?" Philosophy Now,103.[15]
2016 October: Publication of "A Golden Manifesto" (Pt1), Philosophy Now, 116, pp.34-6.[16]

Sarah Lewin (23/10/16)

[1] Official date of publication is dated 1988-1989.

[2] Official date of publication is Winter, 1999-2000.

[3] Official date of publication is March-April, 2000.

[4] Official date of publication is September-October, 2000.

[5] Official date of publication is December 2001- January 2002.

[6] Office date of publication is March-April, 2002.

[7] Official date of publication is January-February, 2004.

[8] Official date of publication is August-September, 2004.

[9] Official date of publication is October-November, 2004.

[10] Official date of publication is May-June, 2007.

[11] Official date of publication is November-December, 2007.

[12] Official date of publication is January-February, 2009.

[13] Official date of publication is September-October, 2009.

[14] Official date of publication is March-April, 2012.

[15] Official date of publication is July-August, 2014.

[16] Official date of publication is October-November, 2016.

Explore the Quartet