I Drink, Therefore I Am - a Female Perspective; Philosophy Gets a Woman's Touch. Laura Davis Reports

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Byline: Laura Davis

IN THE same year that the weary midwife brought the first child of her own into the world, a second baby was born, this time a girl, with the same remarkable abilities as her son.

During the 70 years between that celebratory day of his birth and his execution by a draught of hemlock, Socrates would build a reputation as a great philosopher that would keep his name alive for the next 2,000 years.

His followers, Plato and Xenophon among them, would inspire later generations of thinkers who would go on to motivate others, and so on through the centuries until we reach the present day and a group of modern philosophers who meet in pubs.

For the past five years, they have discussed the meaning of life and other issues, in watering holes across Merseyside, until they realised the one topic that was particularly pertinent to their existence: Why did so few women come to their gatherings?

For as long as there have been male philosophers, there have been female ones, too - from Aspasia, courtesan to the Athenian statesman Pericles, who was born in the same year as Socrates, to Simone de Beauvoir, long-term partner of French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre.

So there must be a reason other than inferior intellect or debating skills that was deterring women from joining the group.

"We contacted women who had come along in the past and then stopped coming and asked them why," says 48-year-old Sheila Culshaw, a member of the Philosophy in Pubs movement, that breaks down into six different groups across Merseyside.

"None of them had specific reasons like 'it wasn't very friendly' or 'it was very male dominated'; they were saying things like 'I am intending to come back, I just haven't got round to it'."

Perhaps this is one of the great mysteries of the universe, along with the Fibonacci sequence and why there is only one word for thesaurus.

Not to be deterred by the lack of answers, Philosophy in Pubs went straight to finding the solution.

"We had several meetings with women who were already involved and we explored ways of encouraging more women to come," explains Sheila, a community investment consultant from Toxteth. …