CfA: History of the Philosophy of Pregnancy

We invite authors to submit abstracts of approximately 500 words for a conference entitled “History of the Philosophy of Pregnancy,” hosted by the Philosophy Department of the University of Dayton, as part of its Richard R. Baker colloquia series (Dayton, OH, USA). The conference will be held on October 6-7th, 2023. Please see below for details. 

Keynote Speaker 

Dr. Sara Brill (Fairfield University) 

Our conference is motivated by the dearth of historical scholarship on the philosophy of pregnancy. Historical scholarship on reproduction tends to focus on the conception and development of the embryo  -- 'generation' and 'embryology' -- treating the developing organism as an independent entity. As a consequence, pregnancy is written out of the causal story. The goal of this conference is to recover a history of the philosophy of pregnancy and bring the work and experiences of the pregnant individual into focus. 

We encourage submissions pertaining to all historical periods and are interested in approaches to the topic from different philosophical schools and cultural perspectives.


Examples of potential topics include the following:

  • How was pregnancy conceptualized across cultures and time?

  • How did commitments to autochthony shape conceptions of pregnancy and public policy?

  • What were the political ramifications associated with conceptions of pregnancy, miscarriage, fertility, and infertility?

  • How did slavery and colonial practices impact conceptions of pregnancy and birth?

  • How did historical discussions of individuality and individuation take pregnancy into account in the context of discussions of generation? 

  • How did the practices of midwifery or obstetrics inform philosophical discussions of reproduction?

  • How has pregnancy been understood in the history of biology?

  • How was the role of the placenta in reproduction understood?

  • How was pregnancy understood across species? What significance did this have for understandings of human and non-human animals?

  • What impacts were maternal agency or mental life thought to have on  pregnancy?

  • How did pregnancy relate to ensoulment and the formation of persons?

  • How was the female reproductive body conceived relative to the male reproductive body? Were female bodies treated as inferior versions of male bodies or unique for their reproductive capacities? 

  • What is the historical relation of sex or gender to pregnancy? What is the relation of physiological to cultural understandings of pregnancy, or vice versa?

  • How has the discourse on pregnancy and fertility intersected with the discourse on ableism and disability?

  • Why is there little, if any, explicitly philosophical writing on pregnancy in the history of philosophy?

  • What kinds of methods may be employed for the recovery of a history of the philosophy of pregnancy?

  • What does the history of the philosophy of pregnancy suggest for contemporary philosophy of pregnancy?

Please submit abstracts of ~500 words to by May 15, 2023. Please include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), and paper title in your email. Papers should be suitable for a 30 minute talk, with Q&A to follow. Acceptance decisions will be announced by July 1, 2023. Submissions from members of underrepresented groups in philosophy are especially encouraged. Subsidized accommodations are available on a limited basis. 

Please contact with any questions.

Organized by Dr. Myrna Gabbe (University of Dayton), Maja Sidzińska (PhD candidate, University of Pennsylvania), and Evangelian Collings (PhD candidate, University of Pittsburgh)

Sponsored by Philosophy Department, University of Dayton