Ethics, Values, and Politics

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.

The Ethics of Sexual Preference

Sexual preferences represent a rich site for ethical exploration of topics such as oppression, responsibility, freedom. Because everyone has sexual preferences of some kind or another, everyone has some stake in the answers to these questions. Moreover, the deeply entrenched (indeed, possibly involuntary) nature of sexual preferences illustrates the extent to which oppression is socialized and internalized by individuals in even the most intimate spheres of life.

Racial Humor

Texts and Courses

Primary Texts

Luvell Anderson: “Racist Humor”

Secondary Texts for Instructor

John Morreall: “Philosophy of Humor” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Jorge Garcia: “Current Conceptions of Racism: A Critical Examination of Some Recent Social Philosophy” (1997) Journal of Social Philosophy 28(2): 5-42.

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).

Whānau Ora Health Policy


The pursuit and realisation of self-determination for Māori communities has been intimately bound up with – among other things – the revitalisation of Māori philosophies. The capabilities of Māori communities to be able to define who they are, and to pursue and realise lives they value is bound up with the extent to which Māori are able to articulate and appropriately apply and reapply their concepts and values to their lives and futures.

Care of the Dead

The early Chinese philosophers argued heatedly about how to care for the dead.  In this unit, three of the most distinctive views of the period are presented.  These can be treated together but also easily break apart for smaller lessons or units with other materials.
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