Dr. Jan Garrett, Professor of Philosophy at Western Kentucky University, shares how he integrated Riane Eisler’s domination-partnership systems framework into an ethics course.

I integrated Dr. Eisler's work into my general education Ethics course. The hope, of course, was that if people who had previously been taught to see morality and conduct chiefly through Strict Father or Dominationist lenses realized that there was another way of looking at the world, which had its own attractions, they might allow their own Partnership inclinations to come to the surface and practice them more consistently.

I hadn't taught the course in two years, and found this an interesting experience. Most of my students were taking the course as a prerequisite for entry into our university's Nursing program, and at least 90 percent of them were women. They seemed a bit more predisposed to taking Partnership or Nurturant Parent thinking seriously than many of my previous students.

  • At the beginning of the course, I gave my students some charts copied from The Power of Partnership.
  • Partnership v. Domination Patterns includes my remarks on how basic ideas from George Lakoff parallel Riane Eisler's thinking, a bibliography for Lakoff, and a link to a short Lakoff article that I encourage students to read.
  • The main textbook was Judith Boss, Analyzing Moral Issues (5th edition). The first chapter includes excerpts from Nel Noddings, Aristotle, Kant, Bentham and Mill, Locke, and Ayn Rand. I interweave our discussion of those texts (saving Aristotle and Kant for later in the course) with comments on how the positions of the authors involved relate to Eisler's and Lakoff's conceptual frameworks.
  • On the topic of torture, students read an article by Eyal Press, "In Torture We Trust," that appeared in The Nation in 2003.
  • Ethical Theories and Issues Through New Lenses collects the main points I made about some of the theorists and many of the more specific "applied ethics" type articles that are found in the Boss anthology.
  • The point was to show the utility of Eisler's and Lakoff's frameworks as well as the interrelations between intellectual treatments of apparently disconnected issues.

Upcoming Courses

I am also likely to introduce the Eisler and Lakoff paradigms in two upcoming philosophy courses:

  • An Ethical Theory course (for majors and minors in Philosophy) that I will teach as a History of Ethical Theory course.
  • A new introductory general education elective, The Committed Life, which I'll be teaching as a variant of a Philosophy of Human Nature course that I've taught previously