“Practical Uses of Philosophy”: Julia Ward Howe as Public Philosopher

Carol M. Bensick, PhD
Friday, April 21, 2023, 12–1 pm on Zoom  
This event is FREE!
(link will be sent in the registration confirmation email)

The American Philosophical Association maintains a Committee on Public Philosophy inspired by “the belief that the broader presence of philosophy in public life is important both to our society and to our profession.” It aims “to find and create opportunities to demonstrate the personal value and social usefulness of philosophy.” Julia Ward Howe was not intent on receiving recognition or admiration as a philosopher herself. In an undated late-life poem called “To Philosophy,” she is quick and apparently proud to assert “With thy holy robes of state I my meanness did not mate.” But if she eschewed making a name as a philosopher herself, she was highly intent, to “demonstrate the personal value and social usefulness of philosophy.” In promoting public philosophy, she exemplified public philosophy herself.

Carol M. Bensick completed her PhD at Cornell University in American literary and intellectual history, specializing in puritanism and transcendentalism. She was an assistant professor at the University of Denver, the University of Oregon, and UC Riverside and gained tenure at University of Oregon. She taught summer school at Cornell and UCLA and Extension at UCR. Her revised dissertation was published as La Nouvelle Beatrice: Renaissance and Romance in “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” She edited and wrote the headnote for Jonathan Edwards for the first Heath Anthology of American Literature. As research affiliate at CSW|Streisand Center, she roams the nineteenth-century archives turning up women philosophers wherever she goes.

Center for the Study of Women