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Kadish Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory: Susanne Sreedhar, Boston University

Friday, October 13, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Susanne Sreedhar is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Boston University. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Women’s Studies from Duke University. Her research focuses on early modern political philosophy, especially that of Thomas Hobbes. Her first book, Hobbes on Resistance: Defying the Leviathan, came out with Cambridge University Press in 2010. Her second book, Hobbes on Sex, is under contract with Oxford University Press.

Paper Abstract:

How should we understand Hobbes’s position on sex difference and gender equality? I argue that careful examination of the texts, combined with attention to the more general principles of Hobbes’s philosophy, allows us to reconstruct a complicated but nonetheless consistent view. Part I surveys the relevant textual evidence and argues that on balance Hobbes holds what we might call a social constructionist view of gender. Part II locates Hobbes’s social constructionist view of gender in the context of his general view of human equality. Seen in that light, it becomes clear that the question about the metaphysical nature of sex difference is, for him, the wrong question to ask. Hobbes’s ninth law of nature, which requires the “acknowledgement” of equality, suggests that inquiry into the nature of human difference is at best beside the point and at worst dangerous to social and political stability. Although a social constructionist view about gender is compatible with Hobbes’s insistence on the acknowledgement of equality, his larger philosophical commitments encourage us to turn our attention away from the metaphysical nature of sex difference as a topic of analysis. This means that Hobbes’s position on gender is both that gender is largely a social construct and that whether gender is a social construct is a question that should not be taken up. Properly understood, his is a nuanced view, distinctive in the history of social contract theory and yet at the same time quintessentially Hobbesian.

About the Workshop:

This course is a workshop for discussing works in progress in moral, political, and legal theory. The workshop creates a space for students to engage directly with philosophers, political theorists, and legal scholars working on normative questions toward the goal of fostering critical thinking about concepts of value and developing analytical thinking and writing skills. Another aim is to bring together people from different disciplines and perspectives who have strong normative interests or who speak to issues philosophers and theorists should know something about.

The theme for the Fall 2023 workshop is “Current Work on the History of Political, Legal, and Moral Philosophy.”


Friday, October 13, 2023
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


141 Law Building


Kadish Center for Morality, Law & Public Affairs

Events are wheelchair accessible. For disability-related accommodations, contact the organizer of the event. Advance notice is kindly requested.

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