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Care Ethics—The Basics
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• The moral dilemma of Abraham:
A conflict between two duties:
To obey God
To preserve human life
• How would a contemporary
woman resolve this dilemma?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Revisitation: What is a philosophical
problem?
A philosophical problem is
a cluster of closely related
philosophical questions.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
What is it to live an ethical life?
• Flourishing; developing excellence? (VE)
• Following the natural law? (NLE)
• Living up to the social contract? (SCE)
• Increasing happiness for all? (UE)
• Doing one’s duty? (DE)
• Caring for the Creator/creation?
(FE: Franciscan Ethics)
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• Care ethics states that to live an ethical
life is to care about those with whom
we are in close relationship. Caring is
the ethical ideal.
• According to Mizzoni, Care Ethics is a
contemporary ethical theory developed
in the 20th century.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
ETHICAL TRADITIONS
ANCIENT ETHICS
(580 B.C.E.-200 C.E).
Relative Ethics
Universal Ethics
MEDIEVAL ETHICS
(200-1500 C.E.)
Virtue Ethics
Natural Law Ethics
Franciscan Ethics
MODERN ETHICS
(1500-1900 C.E.)
Social Contract Ethics
Utilitarian Ethics
Deontological Ethics
CONTEMPORARY ETHICS
(1900 C.E. –present)
Care Ethics
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• The philosophers who developed and
write about care ethics describe it as a
feminine ethic. Most of them are
feminists.
• They claim that males see ethics as
being about principles, whereas
females see ethics as being about
relationships.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Ethics of caring emerged as a
response to male-dominated
ideas in developmental
psychology, especially those of
Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987).
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development
Six Stages of Moral Development
Post-Conventional Stages 6. Universal ethical principles; mutual respect as a
(Abstractly Oriented
universal principle
Stages)
5. Social contract orientation; justice and rights;
contractual perspective
Conventional Stages
4. Authority and social order ;“Law and order”
(Socially Oriented Stages) mentality; social systems perspective
3. Interpersonal conformity: “I’m a good boy/girl.”
social norms; social relationships perspective
Pre-Conventional Stages
(Egoistically Oriented
Stages)
2. Self-interest : “What’s in it for me?”; reward;
instrumental egoism perspective
1. Obedience; fear of punishment;
blind egoism perspective
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Carol Gilligan (1936-present), a research
assistant to Kohlberg, and a
psychologist herself, argued that his
ideas were too androcentric:
• He originally only used privileged white male
subjects
• He seemed to belittle female ethical concerns
based on caring and relationships
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Gilligan’s criticisms of Kohlberg’s
interpretations, and her own views of
moral development, are summarized in
her 1982 book, In a Different Voice:
Psychological Theory and Women’s
Development.
Despite many awards, Gilligan’s views
are controversial.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Christine Hoff Sommers (1950-present),
a former ethics professor at Clark
University, does not agree with
Gilligan’s views. She feels that Gilligan
and other gender feminists are not
seeking equality with males, but
dominance.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Virginia Held, Distinguished Professor of
philosophy at City University of New
York, stated in 1990:
“Caring, empathy, feeling with others, being sensitive to
each other’s feelings, all may be better guides to what
morality requires in actual contexts than may abstract
rules of reason or rational calculation, or at least they
may be necessary components of an adequate morality”
(“Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory” in
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research , 50, 344).
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Annette Baier (1929-present) a Hume
scholar and moral philosopher, believes
that men and women make decisions
about right and wrong based on
different value systems:
• Men follow an idea of justice
• Women follow a sense of trust or caring
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Nel Noddings (1929-present), an
educator, social psychologist,
philosopher, and feminist, wrote her
book, Caring: A Feminine Approach to
Ethics and Moral Education in 1984.
Noddings believes that care ethics is better
than other traditions. She thinks both men
and women should practice it.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics Is Based on Feelings
• Unlike utilitarianism, care ethics
emphasizes the feelings of love and
joy, rather than pleasure and pain.
• Care ethics says that joy arises
through our personal relationships
with others.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• This is unlike moral theology, which might
relate love and joy to a personal
relationship with God.
• Like utilitarianism, care ethics has an
altruistic basis.
• However, care ethics states that humans
are primarily relational beings, not just
rational beings.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Humans Are Relational Beings
• Gilligan points out that the central
insight of care ethics is that self and
other are interdependent.
• Attention to humans as relational
beings makes care ethics unique.
• The one-caring does not merely think
fondly of the cared-for.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• The one-caring attends to the actual
needs of the cared-for.
• Because the relationship is mutual,
the cared-for responds to the caring
with some kind of acknowledgement.
• Thus, the caring relationship is a
concrete one, not an abstract one.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• Care ethicists recommend that we accept
the fact that:
• We are relational beings who exist in
relationship with many people
• It is an inescapable fact about human
nature that human beings exist in
personal relationships with others
• This can also apply to moral theology
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
• The notion of personal relationships is
important for monotheistic religions,
religious traditions that hold we can have
a personal relationship with God.
• This notion is ignored in deism, the view
that although God exists, human beings
cannot enter into a personal relationship
with God.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
•Some moral monotheistic traditions,
such as Franciscan care ethics, apply
the concept of the caring relationship
of the one-caring and the cared-for to
the relationship between God and
humans.
•Spiritual joy is one of the aspects of a
caring and loving relationship with
God.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Ethics of Principles
Care ethics emphasizes that
• Obedience to principles can blind us
to the concrete needs of others
• Most ethical traditions reveal a
masculine orientation, born out of
traditional male life experiences
DO YOU KNOW ANY EXAMPLES OF THIS?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics vs. Ethics of Principles
Deontological/Non-Consequentialist Ethics
• “Mothering is not a role, but a relationship” (Nel
Noddings, Caring, 1984:128).
• While we might be inclined to think of care ethics
as a kind of duty ethics—the duty to care for
others—care ethicists view caring not as a duty
but as a relationship.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics vs. Ethics of Principles
Consequentialism—Utilitarian Ethics
• Care ethicists reject an abstract and faceless
principle of impartiality for particular
relationships that are concrete, partial, and
personal.
• Although sentiment and altruism are shared by
both ethical traditions, care ethicists reject the
principle of utility and its abstract mathematical
calculations.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics vs. Ethics of Principles
Consequentialism—Social Contract
Ethics
• Care ethicists reject the rational egoism which
forms the basis of social contract ethics. Care
ethicists value feelings over reason, and
altruism over egoism.
• Care ethicists further reject the idea of a
“contract,” as a distortion of the relationship
between human beings.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics vs. Ethics of Principles
Universal Love Ethics
– Mo Tzu’s ethics
– Christian ethics
Care ethicists reject an abstract principle of
universal love, for particular relationships that
are concrete and personal. It is impossible to
be in a concrete, personal, loving, and caring
relationship with all human beings, according
to care ethics.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Virtue Ethics and Partiality
• Care ethics is similar to virtue ethics
– Both de-emphasize principles and actions
– Both stress the person in relationship
• Care ethics stresses the social virtues/otherregarding virtues rather than personal
virtues/self-regarding virtues
• Since care ethics redefines social virtues so they
have a personal dimension, care ethics may be
regarded as a form of virtue ethics
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Virtue Ethics and Partiality
• Care ethics is similar Confucian ethics rather
than to Mo Tzu’s doctrine of universal love,
since care ethics stresses distinctions or
gradations in love rather than loving everyone
equally.
• For example, filial piety, or loving and honoring
one’s parents, is the mark of a good person in
both care ethics and Confucian ethics.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Feminine Ethics
• There are different types of feminists
• Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who
Stole Feminism, categorizes feminists into
two general types:
• Gender Feminists, who accent gender differences
to create privilege for women or advance individual
agenda
• Equity Feminists, who seek equality between men
and women in civil and legal rights
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Feminine Ethics
• Since feminism is a broad spectrum, not
all feminists endorse care ethics
• A feminine ethic is rooted in
• Receptivity
• Relatedness
• Responsiveness (Nel Noddings, Caring, 1984, 172)
• All of humanity [men and women] can
participate in feminine ethics
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Feminine Ethics
• Although men and women may think
differently about ethics, there is no reason
to believe that one style of thinking is
inferior to the other
• Both styles may be complementary:
• “Masculine” ethics focuses on intellect, logic,
principles, and rationality
• “Feminine” ethics focuses on will, caring,
relationships, and feelings
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Feminine Ethics
Perhaps, just as left-brained people need to
develop the right sides of their brains, and vice
versa, men need to develop an appreciation,
understanding, and application of feminine
ethics, and women need to develop
appreciation, understanding, and application of
masculine ethics. Then both ethics are useful
for informing us about choices.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Unified Ethics?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Is Care Ethics Relativist or
Universalist?
Although care ethics may appear to be
relativist, it is universalist:
1. Fundamental universality of feelings
and sentiments for others
2. Universal phenomenon of human
beings in relationships with others
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Is Care Ethics Relativist or
Universalist?
• Ethical universalism is not the same as a
principle of universality. Although care
ethics is universalist, it rejects Kant’s
principle of universality, which is the core
of deontological ethics.
• Care ethics focuses not on principles, but
on close personal relationships.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
What Is the Origin of Ethics,
According to Care Ethics?
• Ethical standards are ultimately
based on feelings that have their
root in a universal human nature.
• These feelings bind people
together.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
What Is Human Nature,
According to Care Ethics?
Human beings are feeling beings
and relational beings whose lives
are inextricably bound up in
concrete personal relationships
with others.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
How Do We Decide Right and
Wrong, According to Care Ethics?
• Care ethics relies not on principles to
determine right and wrong, but
focuses on the concrete needs of
those with whom we are in close
personal relationship.
• Caring is the mark of ethical action.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Applications of Care Ethics
• Personal Applications
• Dilemma of job vs. family
• Social/Political Applications
• Going beyond close relationships
• Child care, health care, education
• Economy and law
• Global/International Applications
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Applications of Care Ethics
Concept of degrees of intensity in
care ethics
self
family
friends
neighbors
nation
world
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Advantages of Care Ethics
• It is a distinctly feminine ethic, long
ignored by male philosophers
• It has modern appeal, paralleling the
liberation of women
• It is more holistic, embracing men
and women as having unique
differences
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Advantages of Care Ethics
• It recognizes the importance of
feelings in making ethical
decisions
• It recognizes the role of the will in
making ethical decisions, and not
just the role of the intellect
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Disadvantages of Care Ethics
• Care ethics is not comprehensive; for
now, it deals only with those who are
personally close to us
• Care ethics is based on generalizations
about masculine ethics and feminine
ethics
• Such generalizations may be oversimplifications
• This may lead to repression of other viewpoints
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Disadvantages of Care Ethics
• Care ethics is anthropocentric
It says little or nothing of ethical behavior toward
nonhuman animals, though Noddings discusses caring
for pets, but not all animals (Caring, 1984: 149-155).
• Care ethics does not resolve certain
moral issues satisfactorily
What if you witness your spouse murder someone?
Should you protect her/him from legal consequences?
CAN YOU THINK OF OTHER ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics in Biblical Times
“So humble yourselves under the
mighty hand of God, that he may exalt
you in due time. Cast all your worries
upon him because he cares for you”. (I
Peter 5:6-7, NAB)
• This New Testament view states that
God has a caring relationship with us.
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics in American History
“I believe…that every human mind
feels pleasure in doing good to
another” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to
John Adams, 1816).
(this quote may refer to more to altruism than to
an ethic of caring)
CAN YOU THINK OF ANY EXAMPLES?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics in Popular Culture
Many artists recorded the song,
“You’ve Got a Friend,” which
illustrates care ethics.
CAN YOU THINK OF ANY EXAMPLES?
Ethics—The Basics
CARE ETHICS
Care Ethics in Popular Culture
“I feel the capacity to care is the
thing which gives life its deepest
significance” (Pablo Casals, Spanish
cellist, conductor, activist, and U.S.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
awardee).
CAN YOU THINK OF ANY EXAMPLES?