Women Philosophers

Angelina Grimke's Letter 12 and Kantian Ethics


This lesson has two main purposes. The first is to illustrate to students how one could apply the Kantian argument that one should not treat others merely as means. This is done by introducing them to an open letter written by the early feminist and abolitionist writer and activist Angelina Grimké in 1838 in which she explicitly argues that men have treated women as mere means.

Understanding Oppression as a Critique of Hedonism

After teaching the hedonism of Bentham and Mill in my Introduction to Ethics class, I often assign Marilyn Frye’s classic feminist essay “Oppression.” (I got this idea from the late, great Claudia Card). This serves two pedagogical purposes for me. First, it exposes my intro students to excellent feminist philosophy without relegating it to its own “feminist ethics” unit at the end of the semester. Second, it offers a fascinating critique of hedonism (even though that is not the main point of the essay).




Intro to Ethics; Social/Political (lower division)

Assigned Texts:

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Abridged, with Related Texts). Ed. Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro. Hackett 2013. ISBN: 1603849386

Suggested Schedule:

Day 1: Reading Lab (in class activity)
Day 2: Go over answers to Reading Lab, do discussion questions of: Intro, Ch. I-V
Day 3: Ch. VI-VII
Day 4: Ch. VI-VII

The Descartes & Princess Elisabeth Correspondence

Primary Texts:

Ed. Atherton, Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Hackett 1994. ISBN: 0872202593 (p. 8-21) (though the correspondence is also available elsewhere, including electronically at earlymoderntexts.org).

Secondary Texts for Instructor:

Lisa Shapiro. “Elisabeth, Princess of Bohemia.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/elisabeth-bohemia/

Mary Shepard's Criticism of Berkeley

Primary Texts:

Ed. Atherton, Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Hackett 1994. ISBN: 0872202593 (p. 147-159)

Suggested Courses:

History of Modern Philosophy


Shepherd argues against Berkeley that our ideas of sensible things are “algebraic signs” giving evidence to their causes (matter).

Discussion Questions (with answers):

1. Shepherd claims that Berkeley’s definition of sensible things (like an apple) is missing a component (150). What is that component?

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