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Richard Nunan

Professor, Philosophy

Address: 14 Glebe Street, Room 201
Phone: 843.953.6522

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

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of law
  • Political philosophy
  • Same-sex marriage, gender identity, and legal moralism


"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.

"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".

"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.

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"