Lisa Tessman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, and an affiliated faculty member in the program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at Binghamton University. She teaches in the Graduate Program in Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy (SPEL), as well as in undergraduate programs in Philosophy, and in Philosophy, Politics and Law (PPL). Tessman received her BA in Philosophy from Carleton College in 1988, and her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1996.
Tessman’s research is primarily in ethics; her approach is feminist, and she contextualizes her work by considering the social and political conditions in which moral experiences take place. Her first monograph, Burdened Virtues: Virtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggles, was published by Oxford University Press in 2005. It focuses on virtues that carry a cost—in terms of flourishing—to those who practice them under oppression. She has also published a number of articles, has edited a collection called Feminist Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Theorizing the Non-Ideal (Springer, 2009), and has co-edited (with Bat-Ami Bar On) a volume called Jewish Locations: Traversing Racialized Landscapes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001). Tessman is currently working on a second monograph, tentatively entitled Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality, which exposes difficulties of moral life that result from some moral failures’ being inevitable. The book investigates several different literatures—ranging from scholarship on Holocaust testimony to ideal and nonideal theory, from accounts of supererogation to debates about moral demandingness and to feminist care ethics—in which impossible moral requirements tend to be unacknowledged. In this range of settings, the denial that there can be impossible moral requirements obscures something about the contingent experience of a certain kind of deep valuing, namely that it constitutively involves taking some acts to be unthinkable and others to be non-negotiably required. Taking a constructivist approach, Tessman tries to make sense of how moral requirements that contravene the principle that “ought implies can” can come to carry moral authority, and how apprehending these impossible moral requirements impacts moral life.
Tessman was a founding member of the Association for Feminist Ethics and Social Theory (FEAST) and served on its Steering Committee from 1999-2011 in a variety of capacities, including Chair of the Steering Committee, Chair of the Program Committee, and Chair of the Diversity Committee. She has also been serving since 2009 on the Board of Associate Editors for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. Tessman also served for a term on the APA Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession, and on the Distinguished Woman Philosopher Award Selection Committee for the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP).