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Mary Midgley

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Midgley in 2002
Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

Mary Midgley (1919-2018) was a British philosopher who specialized in ethics and wrote extensively on moral philosophy, epistemology, science, and animal rights. Midgley was an atheist and argued for a naturalistic understanding of the universe, but opposed reductionism and scientism. Her first book, Beast and Man (1978), attacked both human exceptionalism that places humanity outside the natural realm and overly reductionist sociobiology that denies human agency and morality.[1] Midgley notably wrote a hyperbolic response to Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and J.L. Mackie's review of said book, claiming that their rhetorical anthropomorphism and equivocation led to an implicit endorsement of psychological egoism.[2] Dawkins replied, with some justification, that this was a straw man and he had been misread.[3] Midgley later apologized for her initial bombast, but reiterated her criticisms of neo-Darwinism.[4] Midgley was unfortunately prone to endorsing dubious ideas and figures that flirt with pseudoscience or openly promote it. She was a booster of James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis[5] and later endorsed the antics of Rupert Sheldrake.[6]

External links[edit]


  1. David L. Hull. Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature by Mary Midgley. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr., 1981), pp. 307-310
  2. Mary Midgley. "Gene Juggling", Philosophy, vol 54, no. 210, 1979, pp. 439–458
  3. Richard Dawkins. In Defence of Selfish Genes. Philosophy Vol. 56, No. 218 (Oct., 1981), pp. 556-573
  4. Mary Midgley. "Selfish Genes and Social Darwinism", Philosophy, vol 58, 1983, pp. 365–377
  5. See Myths We Live By (2002)
  6. Mary Midgley. The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake - review. The Guardian, 27 Jan. 2012