Richard Nunan (Ph.D. & M.A. in Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; B.A. in Mathematics, Vassar College)
In his own words
Professor of Philosophy, with affiliated faculty status in Women's and Gender Studies, Film Studies, and the Honors College at the College of Charleston. I've been affiliated with the College of Charleston since 1984, and served previously (six years) as department chair. I've also served a five-year term as editor of the American Philosophical Association's Newsletter on Philosophy and Law.
I have fairly broad teaching interests in political philosophy, applied ethics, philosophy of science, and history of philosophy. My main areas of research in recent years, however, have been in philosophy of law, philosophy and film, and philosophical issues concerning gender rights and gender identity questions.
Ph.D., Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
B.A., Mathematics, Vassar College
Nunan in his salad days, consulting with his mentors.
- Philosophy of law
- Political philosophy
- Same-sex marriage, gender identity, and legal moralism
"Catholics and Fundamentalist Protestants on Homoerotic Desire: Augustine vs. Pelagius," Biblical Theology Bulletin 40, #1 (February, 2010), 37-51.
Catholic and Protestant religious responses to the emergence of the late nineteenth-century concept of a more or less ﬁxed sexual orientation have taken three different directions: some have largely abandoned doctrinal hostility to homosexuality ("Mainline" Protestants, roughly speaking); some have conjoined the belief that homoerotic relationships are sinful with the conviction that homosexuality is a product of malleable individual choice, curable through reparative therapy (Evangelical Protestants, roughly speaking); while others contend that, although still potentially sinful, homoerotic dispositions are typically innate and immutable (chieﬂy the Vatican and other clerical authorities among Roman Catholics). This article offers a theological analysis of the dramatic divergence of opinion between the second and third groups. It is suggested that the differences depend on divergent theological commitments to the disparate accounts of human nature and sexual ethics implicit in Paul, Pelagius, and (more explicitly) Augustine. It is argued that both the Evangelical and Catholic positions on the morality of homoerotic relationships are internally incoherent. The Catholic position on birth control is also implicated in this analysis.
"Social Institutions, Transgendered Lives, and the Scope of Free Expression," in Deirdre Golash (ed.), Freedom of Expression in a Diverse World (New York: Springer, 2010), 189-203.
In addition to their official functions, state-sponsored social institutions, such as prisons and civil marriage, serve a more covert function, fostering and sustaining largely unnoticed social ideology. Because such institutions are to some degree coercive, and because the ideology thus promoted is designed to constrain channels of free expression, First Amendment protection is implicated, and can legitimately be applied to the social institution as a whole (not just as it impacts particular individuals). This view is defended through an examination of the ideological implications of the legal landscape governing marriage, as it affects transgendered individuals.
"Filmosophy and the Art of Teaching Philosophy through Film," Film & Philosophy 14 (2010), 135-154.
A critical analysis of Daniel Frampton's Filmosophy (Wallflower Press, 2006) and, more generally, of the question: in what sense do films (at least some films) embody philosophical content, independently of authorial intent? It is argued, using Spike Lee's Jungle Fever as an example, that this phenomenon does occur, but that it is quite rare, because fortuitous in nature.
"Constitutional Rights versus State Autonomy and Direct Democracy: The Story so far on Same-Sex Marriage," APA Newsletter on Philosophy & Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Issues 09 (Fall, 2009), 1-14.
An analytical survey of legislative and judicial action relating to civil unions and same-sex marriage from the early nineties through Spring, 2009.
"What is LGBT Philosophy?" Metaphilosophy 39, #4-5 (2008) 433-471 (with Raja Halwani, Gary Jaeger, James S. Stramel, William Wilkerson, & Timothy F. Murphy).
A multi-author survey of the philosophical terrain involving LGBT issues. I wrote two sections: one on "Homosexuality and the Law", and one on "Homosexuality and Western Monotheistic Religions".
"Open Immigration Policies and Liberal Discomfort," Human Rights Review 9, 9, #4 (2008), 537-541.
Constrained immigration policies are potentially very embarrassing for liberals, because they invite a charge of moral hypocrisy. If prosperous states fail to undertake a collective global wealth redistribution policy, then the liberal belief in the principle of moral equality of individuals appears to require that wealthy liberal states do what they can to implement that principle unilaterally, by opening their borders. Consequentialist cosmopolitanism, as defined by Peter Higgins, appears to support that charge of moral hypocrisy. Higgins argues to the contrary: consequentialist cosmopolitanism creates no embarrassment for liberals reluctant to open the immigration floodgates, because the consequentialist argument for doing so is contingent on the cosmopolitan's individualism requirement, and that requirement ignores social realities relevant to a realistic assessment of the social consequences of an open immigration policy. Against this conclusion, it is argued here that Higgins is mistaken in contending that cosmopolitan individualism entails attention to people only in their capacity as the abstract atomic individuals populating Mills' idealized social ontologies. Conversely, it is equally odd for Higgins to suggest that, if cosmopolitan individualism compels us to think of people as abstract atomic individuals, then we also think of them as relatively privileged.
"Brokeback Mountain and The Children's Hour: A Postscript to Vito Russo's Challenge," Film and Philosophy 11 (2007), 139-158.
In The Celluloid Closet, Vito Russo argued back in the 1980s that Hollywood traffics in homosexuals only as marketable stereotypes—chiefly as material for fag humor, fag insults, and portrayals as cinematic villains—rather than exploring the distinctive perspectives and problems of individual three-dimensional lesbian, gay, and other sexually unorthodox characters, leading lives that extend beyond the mere fact of their sexuality. The problem, Russo explains, is that economic considerations trump aesthetic or moral ones in Hollywood. This paper reevaluates Russo's claim in light of the relatively substantial recent financial investment in the successful Hollywood film, Brokeback Mountain, using an audience reception comparison with William Wyler's The Children's Hour to assess the legitimacy of Russo's economic critique of the mainstream cinematic critique of gay and lesbian characters.
"A Modest Rehabilitation of the Separability Thesis," in Kenneth Himma, ed., Law, Morality, and Legal Positivism (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004), 37-45.
Under one familiar formulation of the separability thesis – that law cannot necessarily possess moral attributes or value – no serious legal theorist today would accept it. Under another familiar formulation of the separability thesis – that morality need not be a condition of legality – no serious legal theorist today would reject it. Jules Coleman has argued, in consequence, that the separability thesis, rather than identifying the core of Legal Positivism, is fundamentally uninteresting, merely a distraction preventing us from recognizing the really significant core commitments of Legal Positivism. In this paper I argue that once upon a time, there were serious legal theorists who, to some extent at least, rejected the separability thesis, construed in the second way. In its historical context, classical Legal Positivism was indeed distinguishable by its commitment to a particular interpretation of the second version of the separability thesis. Once virtually all legal theorists came to share positivist insights about the proper way to understand the separability thesis, courtesy of H.L.A. Hart, classical Legal Positivism effectively ceased to exist as a distinctive legal theory. The debate has now moved on.
Work in Progress
"Transamerica: Identity Politics and Transgendered Ambivalence at the Movies"
"Memento as an Aristotelian Conception of Personal Identity"
"Living with Darwinists (and Copernicans)"
"Same-Sex Marriage in California: Direct Democracy vs. Constitutional Integrity"
"A Tale of Two Lesbians: William Wyler's Disinterment of The Children's Hour"