Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Kant, Oppression, self-regarding duties, resistance, self-respect, agential realism, dependency, education of the emotions

Major Advisor

Lewis R Gordon

Associate Advisor

Jane Anna Gordon

Associate Advisor

Daniel Silvermint

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


There exists, in Kantian ethics, an implied duty to resist oppression. Oppressive environments are those in which equal respect for persons is not enacted and so, any such environment will be one in which the duty of self-respect will present a challenge. The duty arises because of our status among others and is successfully enacted by asserting that rightful status even when it is denied. Accounts that suggest that those who have been socialized to accept inferiority may lack reasons to assert their equality ignore the lived experience of self-reflective beings. Such accounts do, however, reveal the challenge of making those moral reasons publicly. The conceptual resources necessary for upending oppressive structures will not be found within the established meanings available to an unequal society.

Understanding what it takes to successfully uphold this duty requires a broad understanding of the kind of rationality that underwrites autonomy, and the kinds of evidence that allow for recognition of our responsibilities: Rational endorsement of a practical identity involves both intellectual and emotional capacities. When justificatory structures fall short of our needs, we must rely on our emotional capacities to address deficiencies. An education of the emotions is necessary—one that supports our identification with humanity universally rather than with contingent aspects of our identity. It is from such an identification that we root ourselves in humanity and can therefore embrace the ever-unfolding nature of human existence—one in which what we are is perpetually in flux. From such identification, resistance really is always possible.

Available for download on Monday, May 03, 2027