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I'm looking for a short story about a spaceship crewed by philosophers who will the ship to travel through space. Probably around 20 years or more old.

I believe it was a female author. A team of philosophers congregate and posit the ships journey through space. They limber up by asserting some philosophical truths and almost crash when one of them has doubts. It's quite light-hearted and not as dry as what I'm describing.

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    Hi, welcome to SciFi.SE! This question is a bit terse at the moment, are there any other details you could edit in to help others find what you're looking for? If you need some help, take a look at these tips for asking story identification questions
    – fez
    Commented Feb 7 at 9:04
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    Thanks for the suggestion user14111 but that's not it. I have a lot of Cogswell and I just had a look at that story (Galaxy April 1954). I believe it was a female author. A team of philosophers congregate and posit the ships journey through space. They limber up by asserting some philosophical truths and almost crash when one of them has doubts. It's quite light hearted and not as dry as what I'm describing.
    – Damien
    Commented Feb 7 at 9:37
  • Wow, impressive recall and great suggestions thank you. I'll definitely be reading the mathenauts :)
    – Damien
    Commented Feb 7 at 10:02
  • I wonder if it could be "SHAWNA, ltd" by Barry Longyear. That's quite a bit older than 20 years though, and wasn't by a female author (though it was named after a female editor) Commented Feb 7 at 10:50
  • Bingo, that's it exactly. Thanks so much Clara. Wow, 45 years ago. Time flies!
    – Damien
    Commented Feb 7 at 11:10

1 Answer 1

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It's considerably older than twenty years, and it wasn't written by a woman, but otherwise this describes the short story SHAWNA, Ltd by Barry Longyear, published in Asimov's in September 1979.

The story concerns a spaceship that was powered by philosophy, in detail:

SHAWN A — (Supraliminal Hegelian Absolutized World Neotranspatial Amplifier), a device that amplifies the component of mind that creates and alters reality. SHAWN A theory, rooted in the work of the early idealistic philosophers, was first made practicable in 2134 by physicistphilosopher Leonid Veggnitz, at which time it was first used in transportation over multi-parsec distances (See: SHAWNA, Ltd. under Space Lines, Commercial).

The philosophers on board indeed limber up by considering philosophical statements:

Wheeler faced to his front, stabbed several buttons set into his chair's armrest. "Into first, then: objects depend on mind for existence; objects have no meaning apart from the knower, and the knower is mind; objects cannot exist apart from mind."

moving up through the gears until they reach:

"Ready for third, lads?" Nods all around. "Here we go, then: subject and object are reciprocally dependent upon each other; there can be no subject without an object and no object can exist without a subject; complete reality is a unity of subject and object."

They arrive at their destination, but then face a crisis when one of the philosphers begins to pray, plunging them into "Hegelian Overdrive".

The complete text is available from the Internet Archive in Longyear's anthology, It came from Schenectady.

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    Nice answer. Do you know if it has any relationship / is inspiration with Douglas Adams'Bistromatics?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Feb 7 at 17:31
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    The "philosophy drive" came from a conversation between Shawna McCarthy (at the time the assistant editor of Asimov's, and later chief editor) and Longyear at the magazine office. Whether Adams was influenced by this story to come up with bistromathics, I don't know. Commented Feb 7 at 20:25
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    "It came from Schenectady" is an absolutely brilliant anthology. The story about the Portrait of the Baron is my favourite, but this one lives rent free in a corner of my mind. Commented Feb 7 at 22:11

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