... the sort of book that treats its readers to an old photo of the Lyons’ tearoom, complete with waitresses in frilled aprons, and to the gossipy revelation that, according to Midgley, Anscombe took offense when Murdoch suggested that people sometimes found Anscombe rude and walked out of the tearoom 'in dignified silence' ... the heart of this book resides in the friendship among the four women and the ways they supported and influenced one another ... The biographical material in Metaphysical Animals is evocative and sparkling, sketching each woman’s character with a novelist’s mastery of detail. The photographs provide a charming sense of intimacy and the texture of everyday midcentury British life, its teacups and cats and ration coupons. What’s less persuasive is the book’s overall thesis that the four friends somehow redirected the course of British philosophy or even that they shared a distinct cause or approach. This never comes into focus ... The four unconventional friends are delightful enough company that their story doesn’t require the How X changed the world overlay often used to pump up the import of popular nonfiction. To impose that theme on their story is to reduce it to one of those 'simple oppositions' that Midgley herself complained about, a form that could never do justice to these four fascinating women.
Invigorating ... The authors don’t try to present their heroines as proxy males; on the contrary they emphasize their femininity ... This fascinating work of historico-logico-feminism shows what led to that moment: how women fought their way on to the world stage of philosophy and turned its spotlight away from an analytical desert on to what was really important — moral clarity, wisdom and truth.
In this terrific book, Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman aruge that it was [Elizabeth] Anscombe, together with Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch and Philippa Foot, who dragged the ancient metaphysicians Aristotle and Plato from their pedestals and made them relevant to a post-war world...Metaphysical Animals follows this charismatic quartet as they plot to overturn the moral relativism of male colleagues such as A.J. Ayer who argue that there is no such thing as good or bad, merely self-interest...The result is a group biography that is both gossipy and gripping but also, like the women themselves, profoundly serious...A triumph.