Accessibility Navigation:

John Lawless


Ph.D., M.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A. Georgetown University


I have taught a broad range of courses in moral and political philosophy, including courses in bioemedical ethics, the philosophy of race and gender, the philosophy of law, and ethics and economics. I am particularly interested in using philosophical exploration as an opportunity to practice good writing and reading habits. After all, philosophy finds its natural home in dialogue–that is, in conversation with others. And conversation–between the author, her editors, and her audience–is crucial to good writing. By practicing philosophical dialogue, writers learn to make their own ideas clear and precise, and to express them in language that will be comprehensible to their readers. And by inviting other people's engagement with their ideas, writers gain insights from others' perspectives and experiences.

I am also interested in helping cultivate philosophical conversations outside of the academy; as an active participant in UNC's Outreach Program, I ran discussion groups in elementary schools, afterschool programs, and retirement communities. In the classroom and beyond, I'm particularly interested in using fiction and memoir to focus our attention on the concrete human concerns from which abstract philosophical problems emerge.

My research focuses on the nature of freedom as a social and political ideal-the kind of ideal that contrasts with conditions like domination, subjugation or oppression. I argue in particular that freedom is an essentially social concern, the kind of ideal that we can achieve only in a society of equals who recognize and respect one another's moral rights.

My forthcoming publications include "Freedom and Respect: The Limits of Non-Constraint" in Philosophers' Imprint, and "Agency in Its Social Context" in Res Philosophica.