Saw, Ruth (1901–1983)

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Saw, Ruth (1901–1983)

English philosopher. Born Ruth Lydia Saw in England on August 1, 1901; died in 1983; daughter of Samuel James Saw and Matilda Louisa (Horner) Saw; sister of Grace Saw (a mathematician); educated at the Country School for Girls in Surrey; Bedford College, University of London, B.A., 1926; Smith College, Ph.D., 1934.

Lecturer in philosophy, Smith College (1927–34); lecturer in philosophy, Bedford College (1939–44); lecturer in philosophy, Birkbeck College (1939–46); reader in philosophy, Birkbeck College (1946–61); member of executive committee of the Aristotelian Society (1946–49), treasurer (1950–62); professor of aesthetics, University of London (1961–64); founder of the British Society of Aesthetics; head of the department of philosophy, Birkbeck College; professor emeritus, Birkbeck College (1964); president of the Aristotelian Society (1965).

Selected works:

"An Aspect of Causal Connection," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (NewSeries 35, 1934–35); "William of Ockham on Terms, Propositions and Meaning," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (New Series 42, 1941); "The Grounds of Induction in Professor Whitehead's Philosophy of Nature," in Philosophical Studies: Essays in Memory of L. Susan Stebbing (1948); The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza (1951); Leibniz (1954); "Dr. Margaret MacDonald," in Analysis (16, 1956); "Sense and Nonsense in Aesthetics," in British Journal of Aesthetics (1, 1961); "What is a Work of Art?," in Philosophy (36, 1962); "Art and the Language of Emotions," in Symposium, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplement (36, 1962); "Sense and Reference in Aesthetics," in British Journal of Aesthetics (3, 1963); "The Logic of the Particular Case," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (New Series 66, 1966); Aesthetics, an Introduction (1971).

Not much is known about the early life of Ruth Saw, except that she was educated at the Country School for Girls in Surrey and her sister Grace Saw became a mathematician. After completing her B.A. at Bedford College, University of London, in 1926, she left England for the United States. While working as a lecturer at Smith College from 1927 to 1934, Saw completed her Ph.D. in philosophy. Her interest was in logic and the philosophy of language.

Saw then returned to England and became active in the Aristotelian Society, an organization that fostered intellectual exchange among philosophers. From 1946 to 1949, she served on the Society's executive committee. She also held several positions at University of London's Bedford and Birkbeck colleges, initially as a lecturer. During the 1940s, she was particularly involved with the study of the metaphysical systems, or theories of reality, of Leibniz and Spinoza, and published books on each of these rationalist philosophers.

By the late 1950s, Saw had turned away from metaphysics to aesthetics, the theory of art. She was particularly interested in metaesthetics, the consideration of what would be an adequate aesthetic theory, and she argued that it must be related to a philosophy of language. Her Aesthetics, an Introduction (1971) is less a survey of aesthetic theories than it is an exposition of her own views.

From 1950 to 1962, Saw was treasurer of the Aristotelian Society, and from 1961 to 1964 professor of aesthetics at the University of London. During the early '60s, she also founded the British Society of Aesthetics. On her retirement from Birkbeck College in 1964, she received the honor of professor emeritus, and in 1965 she was elected president of the Aristotelian Society (the fifth woman to hold this prestigious position).


Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. CT: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Waithe, Mary Ellen, ed. A History of Women Philosophers. Boston, MA: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987–95.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada