Janet Radcliffe Richards

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Janet Radcliffe Richards
Janet Radcliffe Richards.jpg
Giving the 2012 Annual Uehiro Lecture at Merton College, Oxford
Born 1944
Residence Oxford
Nationality British
Occupation Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford
Research fellow and consultant at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Spouse(s) Derek Parfit

Janet Radcliffe Richards (born 1944) is a British philosopher specialising in bioethics and feminism. She is the author of The Sceptical Feminist (1980), Philosophical Problems of Equality (1995), Human Nature after Darwin (2000), and The Ethics of Transplants (2012).


Richards was Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University 1979–1999, and Director of the Centre for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine at University College London[1] until 2007. She is the author of several books, papers and articles, and has sat on a variety of advisory and working committees in areas of philosophy and bioethics.[2] Since 2008, she has been Professor of Practical Philosophy at Oxford University. She is also a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics[3] and posts regularly at the University of Oxford's Practical Ethics: Ethical Perspectives on the News website.[4]

Her identification with feminism and her focus on bioethics both occurred "by accident"[5] during the writing of her first book, The Sceptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry (Routledge, 1980; Penguin, 1982) – bioethics being central to the abortion debate.[6] The book proved to be controversial within and outside feminism, e.g. in regard to standards of rationality,[7] fashion and style, and her liberal stance.[8]

Her second book, Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction (Routledge, 2001) explores the so-call Darwin Wars, including what implications Darwinism raises for philosophy and the application of critical thinking to various arguments put forward in the debate. It was originally written as an introduction to philosophical techniques for Open University students using the controversies relating to Darwinian thinking and human nature.[9]

At present, her name often arises in articles and discussions on organ transplantation, in particular the idea of a legitimate organ trade.[10][11][12]

She was married to the philosopher Derek Parfit until his death in 2017.[13]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Sceptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry, Routledge, (1980)
  • Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction, Routledge, (2001)
  • "Why Feminist Epistemology Isn't" (1997) in The Flight from Science and Reason P. Gross, N. Levitt & M. Lewis; Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • "Organs For Sale", Janet Radcliffe Richards, Issues Med Ethics. 2001 April–June;9(2)]


  1. ^ "London's Global University". UCL. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ [2] Archived 11 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ [3] Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ [4] Archived 7 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ [5] Archived 3 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Christine Battersby, Recent work in feminist philosophy, Philosophical Books 1991, 32:4, p. 200
  8. ^ Imelda Whelehan, Modern feminist thought: from the second wave to "post-feminism", 1995, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 39–40
  9. ^ [6] Archived 15 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Charles A Erin, John Harris. "Charles A Erin, John Harris, "Janet Radcliffe Richards on our modest proposal", ''J Med Ethics'' 2003;29:141". BMJ. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  11. ^ "Nephrarious goings on: kidney sales and moral arguments", Janet Radcliffe Richards, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Vol 21 no 4, August 1996, pp 375–416; ISSN 0360-5310.
  12. ^ Janet Radcliffe Richards, The Ethics of Transplants: Why Careless Thought Costs Lives, Oxford University Press, 2012
  13. ^ http://dailynous.com/2017/01/02/derek-parfit-1942-2017/