In an attempt to bolster this interpretation of Gilligan, Michelle M. Moody-Adams cites the following passage from one of Gilligan's rela- tively recent articles: ... stereotypes of males as aggressive and females as nurturant, however distorting and however limited, have some empirical claim. The overwhelmingly male composition of the prison population and the extent to which women take care of young children cannot readily be dismissed as irrelevant to theories of morality or excluded from accounts of moral development. If there are no sex differences in empathy or moral reasoning, why are there sex differences in moral and immoral behavior? 45 Gilligan's linkage of empirical evidence with moral claims heightens her critics' fear that she tends toward "biologism." As Moody-Adams point- edly asks, does Gilligan believe that because more men than women are in prison, women are more moral than men? If so, would she be equally eager to note that given the higher percentage of blacks than whites in prison, whites are more moral than blacks? 46 Do we really want to tie morality to genetics—to accept the sexism and racism inherent in such a view? Criticism Four Even if care and justice are, after all, very distinct approaches to morality, Gilligan may be wrong to argue that care is just as good an approach to morality as justice. Philosopher Bill Puka, for example, suggests that care bears more resemblance to nonmoral virtues, or psychological traits, than to bona fide moral virtues. He claims that we must take seriously Kohlberg's objections to any kind of "benevolence ethics," including Gilligan's ethics of care. 47 First, benevolence ethics valorizes a certain set of nonmoral values or psychological traits. It puts a premium on possessing a certain type of personality: specifically, a kindly and caring one. Second, benevolence ethics does not take seriously the existence of mean, nasty, cruel, hard-hearted, hateful, or abusive individuals. It provides little or no guidance to a benevolent person who is harmed by a malevolent person, for example. May the benevolent person resist evil actively, or must s/he turn the other cheek passively? Third, and finally, benevolence ethics demands too much in the way of self-sacrifice. It of- ten instructs benevolent persons to give until they can give no more— that is, until their physical, psychological, and spiritual resources are en- tirely exhausted. Gilligan's ethics of care is vulnerable to all three of these objections, but especially to the first. As Puka sees it, everything Gilligan writes about care in In a Different Voice suggests an interpretation of care ac- cording to which it is a preference for relating to others closely, for getting into each other's psychologies to share fears, concerns and vulnerabilities when confronting moral issues; (2) a preference for harmonious, non- competitive feelings and cooperative spirit in relating; (3) a commitment to making relationships last by working on them and nurturing them. 48 But if this is care, it is little more than a capacity for
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- Spring '14
- Ethics, Kohlberg's stages of moral development, Carol Gilligan