Moral Understandings: A Feminist Study in Ethics

Margaret Urban Walker, Marquette University

Walker, Margaret. Moral Understandings: A Feminist Study in Ethics. Oxford University Press, 2007. Permalink:


This is a revised edition of Walker's well-known book in feminist ethics first published in 1997. Walker's book proposes a view of morality and an approach to ethical theory which uses the critical insights of feminism and race theory to rethink the epistemological and moral position of the ethical theorist, and how moral theory is inescapably shaped by culture and history. The main gist of her book is that morality is embodied in "practices of responsibility" that express our identities, values, and connections to others in socially patterned ways. Thus ethical theory needs to be empirically informed and politically critical to avoid reiterating forms of socially entrenched bias. Responsible ethical theory should reveal and question the moral significance of social differences. The book engages with, and challenges, the work of contemporary analytic philosophers in ethics.

Moral Understandings has been influential in reaching a global audience in ethics and feminist philosophy, as well as in tangential fields like nursing ethics; research ethics; disability ethics; environmental ethics, and social and political theory. This revised edition contains a new preface, a substantive postscript to Chapter 1 about "the subject of moral philosophy"; the addition of a new chapter on the importance of emotion in practices of responsibility; and the addition of an afterword, which responds to critics of the book.