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Helga Varden



I am currently working on my second monograph, tentatively called Transforming Our Social Contracts (OUP). In it, I present a new Kantian theory of justice as freedom that makes appropriate space for both our diverse, embodied, social natures and our difficult histories, in part, by bringing to the fore questions, reflections, and ideas that always should have been central to these conversations in the philosophical tradition. I argue that neither ideal nor non-ideal political theories can, on their own, capture all that is necessary to reveal patterns and pockets of injustice in ostensibly just societies, and I offer a unified alternative: a more complex theory that can help us envision how to build better and more just civil institutions and societies. As with most of my work, the book strives to bridge several divides in our philosophical practice, including those between continental and analytic traditions, historical and non-historical approaches, and ideal and non-ideal theories.

Transforming Our Social Contracts builds on the work begun in my first book, Sex, Love, and Gender: A Kantian Theory (OUP 2020). Sex, Love, and Gender presents a holistic Kantian philosophical account—the first of its kind— of the structures of our human phenomenology and explores core related moral (ethical and legal) issues, such as abortion, the evil of sexual violence, complexities surrounding the selling and buying of sexual services, the legal institution of marriage, and sexual or gendered identities and sexual orientations. The first part lays out a Kantian moral psychological and ethical theory of sex, love, and gender, while the second part of Sex, Love, and Gender treats rightful uses of coercion in relation to sex, love, and gender. Overall, the book uses Kant’s practical philosophical tools, in conversation with other relevant thinkers, to provide a critique of emotionally healthy, morally justifiable, and responsible forms of sexual, loving, and gendered being and of sexual and gendered wrongdoing and oppression. This book won the North American Kant Society 2023 Senior Scholar Prize for the best Kant book published in the years 2020, 2021, and 2022. 

A Persian anthology of my papers--واردن، هلگا (۱۴۰۱). جستارهایی در اخلاق و فلسفه سیاسی کانت. ترجمه علی پیرحیاتی. نشر نقد فرهنگ (transl: Essays on Kant's Ethics and Political Philosophy)--is forthcoming with Naghd-e Farhang Publications in Iran. 

 In addition to these books, I have published numerous articles in all my main areas of research interest: Kant’s practical philosophy; (the history of) legal-political philosophy (esp. Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Kant, Rawls, Arendt, and Nozick); (the history of) feminist philosophy (esp. Beauvoir); (the history of) social philosophy (race, sex, and gender); applied ethics; moral psychology; philosophical anthropology.

Research Interests

Kant’s practial philosophy, Legal and political philosophy, feminist philosophy, applied ethics, philosophy of sex and love.


Philosophy, Ph.D., University of Toronto
Philosophy, M.A., Arctic University of Norway
Philosophy, B.A., Arctic University of Norway
Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, MSc, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Business Management , B.A., University of Newcastle

Additional Campus Affiliations

Professor of Women and Gender Studies

Professor of Political Science

Affiliate of The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory Affiliate

Affiliate of The European Union Center

Affiliate of Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program


Recent Publications

Varden, H. (Accepted/In press). Jordan Pascoe's Kant's Theory of Labour: A Kantian Engagement. Kantian Review.

Varden, H. (2024). Leaving the State of Nature. Strengths and Limits of Kant’s Transformation of the Social Contract Tradition. Zeitschrift für Politische Theorie.

Varden, H. (2024). Traumatized Heroes: Living with Wrongdoing. Public Seminar, Public Seminar.

Varden, H. (Accepted/In press). واردن، هلگا (۱۴۰۱). جستارهایی در اخلاق و فلسفه سیاسی کانت. ترجمه علی پیرحیاتی. نشر نقد فرهنگ. Naghd-e Farhang Publications.

Varden, H. (2023). Asha Bhandary's Freedom to Care — A Kantian Care Engagement. Dialogue, 62(2), 247-260.

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