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Anita Superson


Ph.D. University of Illinois, Chicago, 1989


My first academic interest was in biology, and I graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. from DePaul University.  In preparation for a career in medicine, I took some courses in medical ethics. That turned into an M.A. in philosophy with a concentration in medical ethics from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  My Master's Thesis, A Philosophical Analysis of Needs as a Foundation of Rights, aimed to establish a grounding for a right to health care.  This topic generated my interest in the connection between obligations and motivations --the internalism/externalism issue-- which in turn led me to explore the connection between obligations and reasons in my dissertation, The Self-Interest Based Contractarian Response to the Why-Be-Moral Skeptic.  After receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, I taught at Kansas State University for three years, and joined the department at the University of Kentucky in 1992.  I was a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Michigan (2008), the Humphrey Professor of Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo (2013), and the recipient of an AAUW Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2005-2006.  I was a founding member of the Society for Analytical Feminism, and served as President and as a member of the Executive Committee for over a decade.  I served on the APA Committee on the Status of Women, and was a member of the Special Task Force on Women in Philosophy.  I served as President of the Central States Philosophical Association (2015).  I am a devoted Bears fan. 



I specialize in ethics and feminist philosophy.  My interests in ethics are wide-ranging, including metaethics, moral psychology, normative ethics, and health care ethics. I am particularly interested in moral skepticism, moral authority or bindingness, internalism/externalism, responsibility, agency, deformed desires, social privilege, evil and immorality, and bodily autonomy.  Much of my work intersects ethics and feminism: I apply feminist insights to traditional issues in ethics, and apply the methods of analytic philosophy to issues in feminism. My monograph, The Moral Skeptic (OUP 2009), is an example of how my work imports feminist insights into traditional issues in metaethics and normative ethics. I challenge the traditional picture of the skeptic who asks, "Why be moral?" I argue against the traditional picture that it is too weak and not sufficiently politically sensitive. I argue that a successful defeat of skepticism would address not only the action skeptic, but the disposition skeptic, the motive skeptic, and the amoralist, and would show that not only self-interested behavior but morally unjustified behavior targeting disenfranchised social groups is irrational.  My anthology (co-edited with Sharon Crasnow, OUP, Feb. 2012), Out From the Shadows:  Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy, contains 18 chapters (17 new) exhibiting the extensive impact that analytical feminism is making on mainstream philosophy.

Other issues I have examined in my published work include contractarian and feminist attempts to defeat moral skepticism, whether acting from moral motives is rationally required, the internalism/externalism debate about reasons and motivation, responsibility of the privileged for harm to the oppressed, responsibility of the Deferential Wife for her servility, victim-blaming, deformed desires and informed desire tests, the connection between the rationality of dispositions and of actions, the moral status of faculty/student amorous relationships, and sexual harassment.

I am currently working on papers on moral bindingness, and fanhood as a commitment, and a monograph on bodily autonomy (followed by another on Feminist Ethics for Cambridge University Elements series).


Selected Publications:
  • Books:

  • The Moral Skeptic (OUP, 2009). 

  • Out From the Shadows:  Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy (co-edited with Sharon Crasnow) (18 chapters, 17 new) (OUP, Feb., 2012).

  • Theorizing Backlash:  Philosophical Reflections on the Resistance to Feminism (co-edited with Ann Cudd) (Rowman Littlefield, 2002).

Edited Volumes:

  • Teaching Philosophy: Teaching in the New Climate of Conservatism. June 2007.
  • (Co-editor with Samantha Brennan) Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy: Special Issue on Analytic Philosophy. Fall 2005. 
  • American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. Spring 2003.


  • "Practical Moral Skepticism," in Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy, ed. Duncan Pritchard. (2017)
  • "Feminist Metaethics," In Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy, ed. Ann Garry, Serene Khader, and Alison Stone. (2017)
  • "Honky Tonk Women: The Right to Bodily Autonomy and Prostitution," in Personal Autonomy and Social Oppression, ed. Marina Oshana (Routledge, 2014).
  • "The Right to Bodily Autonomy and the Abortion Controversy," in Autonomy, Oppression and Gender, ed. Andrea Veltman and Mark Piper (OUP, 2014).
  • Substantial Revision to entry on Feminist Moral Psychology, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (posted 7/2012).
  • Entry on "Feminist Ethics," for The Continuum Companion, ed. Christian Miller (2011).
  • "Strategies for Making Feminist Philosophy Mainstream Philosophy," Hypatia 26: 410-418 (2011).
  • "The Deferential Wife Revisited:  Agency and Moral Responsibility," Hypatia 25 (2010): 253-275.
  • Entry on Feminist Moral Psychology, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  (posted 2009).
  • "Privilege, Immorality, and Responsibility for Attending to the ‘Facts About Humanity’," Journal of Social Philosophy 35 (1) (Spring 2004): 109-126.
  • "Response to Four Commentaries: Antony, Darwall, Thomas, Uleman" on "Privilege..." for the Symposium on Gender, Race and Philosophy (Jan. 2006): 1-12.
  • "The Rationality of Dispositions and the Rationality of Actions: The Interdependency Thesis," Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review 44 (2005): 439-68.
  • "Amorous Relationships Between Faculty and Students," The Southern Journal of Philosophy 39 (3) (2001): 419-440.
  • "A Feminist Definition of Sexual Harassment," Journal of Social Philosophy 24 (2) (1993): 46-64.


Recently Taught Courses:

  • Agency (contemporary section of graduate proseminar)
  • Moral Psychology (graduate seminar)
  • Bodily Autonomy (graduate/undergraduate seminar) (U. Waterloo; U. Kentucky)
  • Contemporary Metaethics (graduate seminar)
  • Contemporary Moral Problems, with emphasis on Race and Gender (U. Michigan)
  • The Authority of Reason (graduate seminar)
  • Philosophical Issues Surrounding Abortion (upper division/graduate)
  • Dignity and Self-Respect (graduate seminar)
  • The Role of Values in Theories of Morality and Rationality (graduate seminar)
  • Evil, Immorality, and Amorality (upper division/graduate)
  • Ethical Theory (upper division/graduate)
  • Ethics
  • Introduction to Feminism and Philosophy
  • Feminist Philosophy (upper division/graduate)