Ethics Updates


Gender and Ethical Theory

A Survey of Internet Resources on Gender and Ethical Theory

General Resources

See the resources listed on the Gender and Sexism page of Ethics Updates; also see:

  • Feminist Theory. University of Iowa Guide to Internet Resources

  • SWIP, the Society for Women in Philosophy.

Lawrence M. Hinman, "Gender and Moral Theory"

Professor Carol Gilligan, "Voice and Relationship: Rethinking the Foundations of Ethics." 
University of San Diego, January, 1997.  Available in RealVideo

Professor Carol Gilligan, "Ethics Across the Curriculum Workshop" University of San Diego, January, 1997

Other On-Line Resources

DEBATE: Feminism and Multiculturalism
   (from The Boston Review, October/November 1997)

Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? - Susan Moller Okin
Whose Culture? - Katha Pollitt 
Liberal Complacencies - Will Kymlicka 
Complicating Culture - Bonnie Honig 
Who Do You Trust? - Yael Tamir 
"Barbaric" Rituals? - Sander Gilman 
Between Norms and Choices - Robert Post 
A Varied Moral World - Bhikhu Parekh 
Publicity and Public Life - Elizabeth Frazer 
Culture Beyond Gender - Saskia Sassen 
Liberalism's Sacred Cow - Homi K. Bhabha 
Reform or Destroy? - Joseph Raz 
Culture Constrains - Janet Halley 
Susan Okin Responds - Susan Okin
Sexual Equality vs. Religion: What Should the Law Do? - Cass R. Sunstein

For an excellent overview of feminist ethics, see Rosemary Tong's "Feminist Ethics" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

A Bibliographical Survey of Philosophical Literature on Gender and Ethical Theory Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory

Biliographical essays are drawn from Lawrence M. Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory, 3rd Edition [Wadsworth, 2002] 2002


A number of journals have are devoted to feminist issues. Among those that regularly have articles on feminism and ethics are Hypatia, which is of particular relevance to philosophy, and Signs, which is an interdisciplinary journal of feminist studies.

Earlier Works

Among the earlier works in feminist philosophy, see Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason. "Male" and "Female" in Western Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); Joyce Trebilcot’s "Two Forms of Androgynism," Journal of Social Philosophy Vol. 8, No. 1 (January, 1977), pp. 4-8; Joyce Treblicot, ed., Mothering: Essays in Feminist Theory (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1984). More recently, see especially Caroline Whitbeck, "A Different Reality: Feminist Ontology," Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, edited by Ann Garry and Marilyn Pearsall (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989); Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking. Toward a Politics of Peace (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989); : Rita C. Manning’s Speaking from the Heart: A Feminist Perspective on Ethics (Lantham, Mass.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992); Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), which presents a strong case for affirming, rather than minimizing, social group differences; Living with Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics, edited by Alison M. Jaggar. (Boulder : Westview Press, 1994); "Nagging" Questions: Feminist Ethics in Everyday Life, edited by Dana E. Bushnell (Lantham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995); Feminist Ethics and Social Policy, edited by Patrice DiQuinzio and Iris Marion Young. (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1997), which contains all the essays in the Hypatia Symposium on Feminist Ethics and Social Policy plus four additional essays.

Annette Baier

For the work of Annette Baier on ethics and women, see especially her Postures of the Mind (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985); A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume's Treatise (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991); Moral Prejudices (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), especially "What Do Women Want in an Ethical Theory?"; and her Carus lectures, The Commons of the Mind (Chicago: Open Court, 1997).


For an invaluable overview of various theories and positions, see Rosemarie Tong, Feminine and Feminist Ethics (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993). Also see Jean Grimshaw, "The Idea of a Female Ethic," A Companion to Ethics, edited by Peter Singer (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), pp. 491-99; Alison M. Jaggar, "Feminist Ethics: Projects, Problems, Prospects," Claudia Card’s Feminist Ethics (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1991), 78-104; "Feminist Ethics," Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), pp. 361-70.


Several anthologies contain a number of important papers on feminism and ethics: Eva Feder Kittay and Diana Meyer’s Women and Moral Theory (Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1987); Feminism and Political Theory, edited by Cass R. Sunstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Claudia Card’s Feminist Ethics (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1991); Explorations in Feminist Ethics, edited by Eva Browning Cole and Susan Coultrap-McQuin (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Ethics: A Feminist Reader, edited by Elizabeth Frazer, Jennifer Hornsby, and Sabina Lovibond (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992); An Ethic of Care: Feminist and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Mary Jeanne Larrabee (New York : Routledge, 1993); and Virginia Held’s anthology, Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995). Claudia Card’s anthology also has an excellent bibliography.

Lawrence Kohlberg’s major works on moral development are contained in the two volumes of his Essays in Moral Development (New York: Harper and Row, 1981 and 1984). Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press) appeared in 1982, and since then has continued to have a profound impact in a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, religious studies, philosophy, sociology, communications, and literature. It has become the best selling paperback that Harvard University Press has ever published, and has been translated into eleven languages. The 1993 edition has a new introduction. Gilligan’s most recent work is to be found in a collection of essays that she co-edited with Janie Victoria Ward and Jill McLean Taylor, Mapping the Moral Domain (Cambridge: Center for the Study of Gender, Education and Human Development, 1988); in Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girl’s Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); and in Between Voice and Silence: Women and Girls, Race and Relationship, edited by Jill McLean Taylor, Carol Gilligan, and Amy M. Sullivan (Cambridge, Mass : Harvard University Press, 1995). For the distinction between feminine and feminist ethics of care, see Gilligan’s "Hearing the Difference: Theorizing Connection," Hypatia, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 120-27. Nel Noddings’ Caring (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) and, more recently, her book Evil (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989) have also had a significant impact in articulating a specifically feminine voice in ethics. My presentation of Gilligan’s position is strongly indebted to the (largely unpublished) work of Michelle Dumont and to a two day workshop on Ethics and Gender conducted by Carol Gilligan at the University of San Diego, January 27-28, 1997. I owe my familiarity with the Bem scale to Linda A. M. Perry.

The work of Gilligan and others has stirred up a healthy debate among philosophers about the implications of her work, and of feminism in general, for ethics. Several journal exchanges are also of particular relevance here, most of which have appeared in Ethics: the Kohlberg-Flanagan exchange on "Virtue, Sex, and Gender" Ethics, Vol. 92, No. 3 (April, 1982), pp. 499-532; Lawrence Blum’s "Gilligan and Kohlberg: Implications for Moral Theory" Ethics, Vol. 98, No. 3 (April, 1988), pp. 472-91; and the symposium on "Feminism and Political Theory," Ethics, Vol. 99, No. 2 (January, 1989). Owen Flanagan's Varieties of Moral Personality (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991) contains several excellent chapters (esp. Chapters 9-11) on this issue. Also see Susan J. Hekman, Moral Voices, Moral Selves: Carol Gilligan and Feminist Moral Theory (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). Virginia Held's anthology, Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995) contains an excellent selection of very strong papers.

It is worth noting that the voice of caring that Gilligan, Noddings and others describe is not limited to feminist writers. The work of Martin Buber is particularly striking in this regard. His I and Thou, translated by Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1960) is an insightful work that is certainly compatible with the type of framework that Gilligan and others are articulating. Also see Harry Frankfurt, "The Importance of What We Care About," Synthese, Vol. 53 (November, 1982), pp. 257-90

One of the main issues in regard to gender differences is whether we are espousing a moral ideal that either combines both masculine and feminine elements or is gender-neutral. See for a key discussion of two different ways in which the ideal of androgyny can be understood.