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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. 


Research Interests:
normative ethics
Moral Psychology
action theory
feminist philosophy

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.  My monograph, Feminist Ethics, is forthcoming in the Elements series with Cambridge University Press (ed. Dale Miller and Ben Eggelston).

Other issues I have examined in my published work include fanhood and its implications for defeating moral skepticism, 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 a paper on moral bindingness and a monograph on bodily autonomy.


Research Interests

Ethics, including metaethics, moral psychology, normative ethics, health care ethics

Feminist philosophy

Book covers

The Best Day of My Life (So Far).....

My Furniture Projects

When I am not doing philosophy, I can sometimes be found refinishing and reupholstering old furniture.  I learned to refinish from my father, and learned to reupholster in a $30 Adult Ed course in Lexington, Kentucky, which turned out to be a very wise investment.  I do old-fashioned, European-style upholstery, using tacks, horsehair, and cotton batting.  I strip down the furniture to the webbing and re-do the piece from the ground up.  Here are a few samples of some of my projects.

This is a chair that matches a couch from a neighbor whose mother didn't want to just put it in the alley, as it belonged to her grandmother.  The neighbor said, "If you take the couch, you have to take the chair."  Both are hand-carved walnut.  The couch was the first couch I reupholstered.  I stripped off the velvet fabric on a 98 degree day, and the velvet stuck to my sweat.



This chair was hand-carved by my grandfather probably in the 1940s when he worked at a furniture factory in Chicago.  I reupholstered it for my brother.  I was very skeptical about the quail meadow pattern on the fabric he picked out, but it seems to go with the chair, and turned out to be one of my favorite projects.  The pattern on the fabric highlights the carving on the wood.



This is the backside of the quail meadow pattern chair.



Side view of the quail meadow pattern chair.  A lot goes into lining up the pattern just so.



This is a chair I reupholstered for my parents, this one hand-carved by my grandfather at the Chicago factory.  I did a third chair in the same fabric for my aunt and uncle. The sweaty couch project.



This is a second chair of the set I did for my parents.






This is my favorite project to date, and the most difficult piece I've worked on -- check out all those buttons!  It's a hand-carved, walnut loveseat that belonged to my grandparents.  When we were cleaning out their house, my mother and uncle asked me if there was anything I wanted.  I pointed to the very dusty faded green loveseat, and they both spun on their heels and said in unison, "This?"  I got the pale seafoam with ivory embroidered fabric on the internet for a song.



Another angle of the loveseat.



This is another couch from a Chicago alley.  It was soaking wet from rain when I rescued it.  Everyone made fun of me for taking "this junk" except for the neighbor who gave me his great-grandparents' couch in the earlier photo.  He said, "I know you'll make it beautiful."




This is a desk from a colleague who acquired it in Liverpool.  Apparently my colleague gave rides to the church to the minister next door so he could perform funeral services at a moment's notice, and got the desk in return.  When I got it, the top was covered with yellow and green contact paper, the handles were coated with chipped white paint, and all the wood needed to be refinished.  I used polyurethane on the body, which is oak, and coated the top with epoxy to even the surface and allow the grain of the various woods (oak and pine) to show through.  I left a lot of the markings on top in case the Beatles had anything to do with them.


A better shot of the grain of the wood on the desk.



This is a chair in progress.  It's an old platform rocker, my first reupholstering attempt that is now getting a make-over because it needed new springs and refinishing. 

Stay tuned for more projects.....

Selected Publications:


  • Feminist Ethics (Elements series, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), Dale Miller and Ben Eggelston (eds.)
  • 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.


  •  "Feminist Ethics," in The Oxford Handbook of Normative Ethics, eds. David Copp, Connie Rosati, and Tina Rulli (forthcoming).
  • "On Being a Fan and on Fanhood and Its Implications for Defeating the Moral Skeptic," Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review 6(2) (August 2022): 347-368.
  • "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; approx. 40,000 words).
  • 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; approx. 40,000 words).
  • "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:

  • Immoral Motivation (graduate seminar, Spring 2024)
  • 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)

Major Editorial Work:

  • Subject Co-editor for Feminism Entries, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2012-present).