Karen Stohr, MA, PhD

Dr. Stohr is the Ryan Family Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy and a Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. Her primary research area is ethics, and her publications cover topics such as practical wisdom, moral imagination, beneficence, friendship, social conventions regarding disability, and the moral aims of dinner parties.

Dr. Stohr is the author of three books and a number of articles. Her first book, On Manners (Routledge, 2011) is a defense of the moral importance of manners. In her second book, Minding the Gap: Moral Ideals and Moral Improvement (Oxford University Press, 2019), she focuses on the task of individual and community moral improvement and the role of social practices in facilitating it. Her third book, Choosing Freedom: A Kantian Guide to Life (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in January 2022) is a reader-friendly exploration of Immanuel Kant’s ethical theory, emphasizing its practical applications in everyday life.

Dr. Stohr’s writing has appeared in the New York Times and other newspapersWith Dr. Sulmasy, she has written columns for the Washingtonian magazine’s “Ask a Coronavirus Ethicist” feature. She has been a guest on a variety of radio shows and podcasts, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show and Philosophy Talk. Within bioethics, Dr. Stohr is particularly interested in how social conventions structure our interactions, both in medical care and in related contexts. In her paper, “Pretending Not to Notice: Respect, Attention and Disability” (Disability in Practice: Attitudes, Policies, and Relationships, Oxford, 2018), she explores conventions of noticing and pretending not to notice as they pertain to social exchanges involving people with disabilities. She is also working on several projects about beneficence and friendship in the context of serious illness and death—how we aid and accompany our friends and family members through challenging and potentially traumatic health care situations. Her paper, “Aristotelian Friendship and Ignatian Companionship” (Spirituality and the Good Life: Philosophical Approaches, Cambridge University Press, 2021) explores the moral demands of friendship in such circumstances and argues that the Ignatian spiritual tradition has important insights into how we can best meet those demands.  

Dr. Stohr routinely teaches introductory ethics courses in which she emphasizes the value of ethical reflection for everyday decision-making. For the past decade, she has been deeply involved with the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning. In those courses, she collaborates with mental health professionals on topics relevant to both the course material and the immediate well-being of students. Engelhard topics in her courses have included the following: the use of Adderall as a study aid; the challenge of preventing sexual assault on college campuses; alcohol abuse; inclusion and exclusion in campus social life. Dr. Stohr holds a B.A. in government and philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.