1 Care Ethics (notes for Winter 2020: 345-BXH-DW course) What is Care Ethics? • Also called “The Ethics of Care” or, in the 1980s, “Feminist Care Ethics” • a very RECENT theory , invented by Carole Gilligan in the 1980s Where does Care Ethics Come From? • Care Ethics emerges from people’s growing awareness that, historically, ethical philosophy was dominated by MEN (think of ancient Greek philosophers from 2500 years ago — Socrates, Plato, Aristotle — right up to the 20 th century) • As a result, a MALE PERSPECTIVE dominates. For centuries, women virtually never contributed to the ethical conversation (or at least no one bothered to record it if they did) • The consequence? Male philosophers promoted their ideas not simply as ONE APPROACH among many, but THE ONE WAY to view reality, as THE TRUTH, a universal perspective (supposedly) common to all. — in other words, a MALE BIAS permeates thousands of years of ethical philosophy. — We should note, here, that having a specific perspective on the world is not a problem, generally speaking. Everyone has a bias. The problem arises when a particular perspective, a particular bias, become UNIVERSALIZED, and INSTITUTIONALIZED, as the ONLY legitimate approach to the world. • As the 20 th century unfolded, with its waves of feminism, a new awareness arose: that traditional ethical philosophy privileges a MALE perspective, whilst devaluing FEMALE approaches. • This new realization was promoted by Carol Gilligan, a US psychology professor, in her 1982 book In a Different Voice. • Gilligan observes how traditional ethical philosophy had, to that point, been shaped by a MALE BIAS. What does this traditional MALE BIAS involve? • a focus on JUSTICE • on IMPARTIALITY • on UNIVERSALITY • on the need to maintain DISTANCE — for example, think of Kant, whose deontological approach to ethics uses impartial rationality to evaluate every problem.
2 — Kant also advocates for the existence of OBJECTIVE UNIVERSAL RULES (his Categorical Imperatives) to guide ethical decision-making. — Kant eschews emotion, and wants people to be cool, reserved, and wholly rational in their application of these rules. —For Kant, people aren’t unique individuals with whom you have a special bond. Rather, people are simple RATIONAL AGENTS who must be treated according to certain UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES. E.g. think of ACT UTILITARIANS, who, again, advocate for IMPARTIALITY in ethics. — for Jeremy Bentham, the Hedonic Calculus was abstract, like a mathematical equation. — your personal relationships, and happiness are all subservient to the greater happiness of the larger population. —the Utilitarian doesn’t think of people as unique individuals to whom you have a personal connect: people are simply abstract, quantifiable entities. VIEWS ON SELFHOOD: ATOMISTIC vs. RELATIONAL In the late 20 th -Century, critics of traditional, male-biased philosophy pointed out that it promoted an ATOMISTIC view of the self WHAT IS AN ATOMISTIC VIEW OF THE SELF?
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- Fall '19
- Carole Gilligan