PHIL 265: Philosophical Issues of Gender and Sex [Fall 2017]


All of us have individual identities shaped by our sex and gender. But what is sex? What is gender? How do they shape our lives, and how should they? In this class, we will look at the work of philosophers, social scientists, activists, and others who try to determine who we are and how we ought to treat one another. The questions we will explore include:

  • What are sex and gender? We will attempt to define these concepts and look at varying views of how they affect our lives.
  • Are women and men essentially different? We will look at historical conceptions of the differences between the sexes/genders and discuss what might happen to these conceptions in the future.
  • Are some people oppressed on the basis of their sex and/or gender? We will explore what oppression is and consider whether people are oppressed on the basis of their sex and/or gender.
  • If there is oppression, how should we respond to it? We will close by considering three issues in the philosophy of sex and gender: first, whether women make a distinctive contribution to morality; second, whether pornography contributes to the oppression of women; and third, whether women (and men) would benefit from changes to marriage.