Philosophy 185 - 9.6.4 Development of Alternative Normative Moral Frameworks

Feminists critiqued traditional moral beliefs and practices for using norms and standards that prioritize certain groups and perspectives. Traditional normative moral frameworks favored the dominant, privileged position by, for example, ignoring actual individuals in concrete situations and therefore making us blind to the ways in which some individuals suffer. Social identities, like people, are diverse and complex. In an attempt to correct oppression based on gender (and identity), feminists have pursued alternative normative moral frameworks.

Feminists have criticized deontological moral theories and duty-centric frameworks. They take issue with the separation of rationality and emotion. Traditionally, woman have been associated more with a capacity for emotion. Historically, philosophers like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Kant, and many others have located the source of human worth and dignity in our rational capacity. Their theories imply, explicitly or implicitly, that women have less worth and dignity, suggesting they are deserving of less respect. The seemingly benign claim that humans are rational creatures has grave implications when what is normal is determined by those who are in a privileged position. Feminists also critique Kant’s normative moral framework because it prioritizes abstraction and generalization over consideration of situational factors and the people involved. They argue that such abstraction is problematic because it pretends to be impartial while ignoring the interests of oppressed or vulnerable groups.

In ethics, feminist scholars have explored alternative moral frameworks using all major approaches. They criticize traditional normative moral theories for ignoring the interests and perspectives of women (and oppressed groups) and for failing to consider important facts of the concrete situation and the individuals involved when applying norms or standards. A viable alternative moral framework must find ways to account for the interests of all persons, focus on the vulnerable and invisible, and lead to moral choices that advance true equality rather than only advancing the interests of the privileged.

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