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Motherhood - Philosophy for Everyone: The Birth of Wisdom

Fritz Allhoff (Series Editor), Sheila Lintott (Editor), Judith Warner (Foreword by)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3028-1
248 pages
March 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Motherhood - Philosophy for Everyone: The Birth of Wisdom (1444330284) cover image


The complex world of motherhood is here unveiled. Covering issues ranging from whether we should occasionally lie to our children, to the unexpected challenges and complications of being a mother, Motherhood - Philosophy for Everyone offers insightful, serious but often humorous essays that can be enjoyed by everyone - including husbands and fathers.
  • Considers salient philosophical issues relating to pregnancy, birth, babycare, and raising a child

  • Chapters include "The Days and Nights of a New Mother: Existentialism in the Nursery", "The Media Proudly Presents:  Lessons' from Celebrity Moms", and "The Off Button: Thought Experiments and Child Control"

  • Contains work from diverse academic perspectives, including economics, psychology, education, English, sociology, women's studies, and theological studies, as well as from nurses and stay-at-home mothers

  • Includes a foreword by Judith Warner, the New York Times columnist ("Domestic Disturbances") and author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Judith Warner).

Acknowledgments (Sheila Lintott).

Navel-Gazing at Its Finest: An Introduction to Motherhood – Philosophy for Everyone (Sheila Lintott).

PART I MOMMY BRAIN: Truth, Knowledge, and Belief in Mothering.

1 How Many Experts Does It Take to Raise a Child? Mothering and the Quest for Certainty (Sue Ellen Henry).

2 Creative Mothering: Lies and the Lying Mothers Who Tell Them (Amy Kind).

3 Pro-Choice Philosopher Has Baby: Reflections on Fetal Life (Bertha Alvarez Manninen).

4 Kim, Ellen, and Zack's Big Adventure: Lesbian Mothers Raising a Boy Steeped in His Masculinity (Kim Anno).

PART II LABOR PAINS: The Work and Wonder of Being a Mom.

5 Days and Nights of a New Mother: Existentialism in the Nursery (Elizabeth Butterfield).

6 Mindful Mothering: How Feminist Buddhist Practices Enhance Experiences of Beauty (Sheryl Tuttle Ross).

7 A Face Only a Mother Could Love? On Maternal Assessments of Infant Beauty (Glenn Parsons).

8 Kevin, Coming Into Focus: On Getting to Know My Son (Laura Newhart).

PART III MOM’S MORALITY: Ethical Issues in Mothering.

9 Making Choices: The Ethics of Infant Feeding (Chris Mulford).

10 Lactational Burkas and Milkmen: On Public Breastfeeding and Male Lactation (Maureen Sander-Staudt).

11 On "Crying-It-Out" and Co-Sleeping (Kevin C. Elliott and Janet L. Elliott).

12 Natural Childbirth is for the Birds (Jen Baker).


13 The Off Button: Thought Experiments and Child Control (Sara Goering).

14 The Virtues of Motherhood (Nin Kirkham).

15 The Media Proudly Present: "Lessons" From Celebrity Moms (Clemence Due and Damien W. Riggs).

16 God, Mom! The Blessings of Breasts and Womb (George A. Dunn).

A Brief Afterword: Some Words from Contributors’ Kids on Motherhood and Philosophy.

Read All About It: A Feminist Bibliography on Pregnancy and Mothering (Compiled by Amy Mullin).

Notes on Contributors.

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Author Information

Sheila Lintott is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University, and the mother of two children. She is co-editor (with Allen Carlson) of Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism: From Beauty to Duty (2008) and was co-editor of the American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter (2005–2008).   

Series Editor
Fritz Allhoff is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Western Michigan University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. In addition to editing the Philosophy for Everyone series, Allhoff is the volume editor or co-editor for several titles, including Wine & Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), Whiskey & Philosophy (with Marcus P. Adams, Wiley, 2009), and Food & Philosophy (with Dave Monroe, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007).

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"This book opens the doors about Motherhood and covers a range of issues mother's face in a refreshing and thought provoking way." (Motherhoodsupport.com, 22 March 2011)

"The series editors were ... smart to divide it into two volumes instead of creating a single book on parenting in general. While there are many questions that apply to the parent role in itself, half the fun is the opportunity for the authors and readers to consider what issues might be thought of as unique to one particular parental role versus another. One of the virtues of these collections is how they demonstrate the ways in which the study of philosophy can really assist us in addressing concrete dilemmas. Measuring the success of collections like these turns on what you expect from them, and I think these two pull it off. The articles are well-written, touches of humour are sprinkled throughout, and the authors can translate complex philosophical theories into a readable format. They apply their work to questions that matter, and even when you don't agree with what they say, there's enough substance here to create an interesting discussion." (The Philosopher's Magazine, 23 March 2011)

"Subtitled "The Birth of Wisdom", a new book called Motherhood: Philosophy For Everyone calls for a more pragmatic approach to being a mum, in which we are not constantly comparing ourselves to others." (Family Interest, December 2010)

"An unusual look at motherhood by several philosophers, which covers ground-such as whether it is ever acceptable to lie to your children- not often explored in maternity books.  Thought provoking." (Mother and Baby, December 2010)

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Press Release

November 08, 2010
Motherhood: The Birth of Wisdom: Philosophy for Everyone

Does mother always know best?  What makes a “good” or a “bad” mother?  Are mothers able to assess their babies’  beauty? Without a single nag, Motherhood: The Birth of Wisdom addresses these and many more significant questions. The essays explore the following themes and more: how the anticipation of parenthood never truly compares with the reality, the multifarious challenges of being a mother, what it means to lie to a child, the commom (and perhaps morose) desire to “turn off” our children, coming to know a child, and honest reflections on the experience of mothering, including lesbian and adoptive mothering

Everyone has an opinion on how to mother most effectively, but ultimately it is up to the mother to figure out what is best for her child. As Judith Warner, New York Times columnist (“Domestic Disturbances”) and author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety writes in her introduction, “Breast or bottle, co-sleep or cry it out, home school or preschool, two percent or skim, opt-in or opt-out—all of these things are discussed and debated, argued over, made obsessions, with a sense of urgency that is all but university among mothers in our time.” The essays give the skinny on day to day issues related to pregnancy, birth, baby care, and raising a child to be a “small adult.”

The book is presented in four parts that move beyond what editor Sheila Lintott calls “navel gazing” philosophy. Part I: Mommy Brain: Truth, Knowledge, and Belief in Mothering gets to the heart of what it means to be an intuitive and responsible mother, featuring essays such as “Creative Mothering: Lies and the Lying Mothers Who Tell Them,” and “How Many Experts Does It Take to Raise a Child?” Part II: Labor Pains: The Work and Wonder of Being a Mom is a chapter to pass the time with when the baby wakes up at 4am crying, featuring essays such as, “Days and Nights of a New Mother: Existentialism in the Nursery.” Part III: Mom’s Morality: Ethical Issues in Mothering presents the philosophical arguments behind common pregnancy and child-rearing choices, featuring essays such as “Natural Childbirth Is for the Birds.”  Part IV: Is Motherhood Everything You Thought It Would Be?: Fantasy Meets Reality presents the cultural zeitgeist of motherhood, with essays such as “The Media Proudly Present: ‘Lessons’ From Celebrity Moms.”

Motherhood: The Birth of Wisdom offers insightful, practical, and often humorous essays that contain more than a grain of truth for fathers and caretakers as well. Each essay is featured with a photo of the contributor with his or her own family. The contributors draw from their experiences as stay-at-home mothers, nurses, and academics working in the areas of economics, psychology, sociology, women’s studies, education, literature, and theological studies.

The volume finishes up with quotes from contrubitors’ kids answering questions about motherhood and philosophy such as “What Does Your Mom Do?” (Answer: “Does she work? Who pays her money?”), and “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” (Answer: “A philosopher … or … um … maybe a neighbor”).

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