Philosophy 183 - 9.6.2 Ethics of Care

Gilligan’s research led to the development of care ethics (Gilligan 1982). Gilligan discovered that men and women often approach ethical dilemmas from different perspectives. Gilligan found that men value things like justice, autonomy, and the application of abstract principles and norms. In contrast, she found that women value things like caring for others, relationships, and responsibility. She called the approach favored by men the perspective of justice and the approach favored by women the perspective of care (Norlock 2019).

The ethics of care is an approach that values caring, the relationships of the individuals involved, and the interests of individuals. In contrast to the emphasis on the application of abstract rules and principles found in traditional ethics, the ethics of care emphasizes the complexities of real life and is more sensitive to unique, concrete situations. Gilligan’s approach asks agents to consider the specific interests of individuals and their relationships. The ethics of care values caring and moral reasoning that accounts for the unique factors of concrete situations.

The Caring Relation as an Ethical Paradigm

Traditionally, the role of caretaker has been viewed as a woman’s role. The caring relationship is one between an individual and their caregiver. A caretaker is compassionate, takes responsibility, understands the importance of relationships, and acts in the best interests of the one they care for. Care ethics uses the caring relationship as an ethical paradigm. It is the model that should be used to determine what’s right and guide behavior. The caring relationship emphasizes the importance of concrete situations, the specific individuals involved, and acting to promote their interests.

Nel Noddings on Caring

In her influential workCaring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984), Nel Noddings argues that the care perspective is both feminine and feminist (Norlock 2019). The emphasis on abstract, universal principles in traditional ethics makes the agent insensitive to situational factors and relationships. In contrast, Noddings endorses the moral value of partiality (Norlock 2019). From this perspective, the agent considers specific situational and relational factors in moral deliberation. When we consider the needs of the actual individuals involved in a situation, we are more likely to be sensitive to the interests of those in marginalized or oppressed positions.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax