Ethics of care

Categories: Ethics

Introduction • Care ethics [The ethics of care] originated among feminists who maintained, on the basis of Carol Gilligan’s work, A Different Voice , that women and girls approach moral issues with a strong concern for empathy and caring in interpersonal relationships. Care and Virtues • Care ethics focuses on virtues associated with care as a moral sentiment and response in the context of particular relationships. • The emphasis is on such traits as empathy, sympathy, compassion, loyalty, discernment and love in intimate relationships, rather than the abstract principles and rights of deontological and libertarian ethics.

• Like communitarian ethics, care ethics stresses the interdependence of persons and the importance of particular relationships, especially within the family and other communities Care Ethics • Care ethics encourages altruism, which entails concern for others, their feelings and needs, but does not neglect care for oneself. • Care ethics requires the moral agent to balance care of the self with care for others. Photo by Katerha Gilligan’s Ethics of Care • Gilligan identifies levels and transition periods in the development of the ethics of care.

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• (1) “From Selfishness to Responsibility” the conflict between what one would do vs. what one ought to do within their attachments and connections to others. Photo by Derek Bruff Ethics of Care • (2) “Goodness as Self-Sacrifice” – concern for others, their feelings and the need to not inflict harm are major concerns. • (3) “From Goodness to Truth” – the morality of care must include a care of the self as well as others, to be honest and real with oneself, an increased responsibility to one’s responsibility to the self, as well as others.

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• Gilligan defines this as “mature care”. Photo by Ed Yourdon

Ethics of Care • (4) “The Morality of Nonviolence” – a moral equality between the self and others is achieved by applying an injunction against hurting; care becomes a universal obligation[1]. Harvard Educational Review: 481-517 Repr. 1986 as “A Different Voice”, In Pearsall, Women and Values: 309-339 [1] Gilligan, Carol 1977, “Concepts of the Self and of Morality” • “Care ethics is based on [or “justified by” ] “lived experience,” especially that of women with intimate relations, trust and commitment. • “Lived experience” is the accumulated subjective experience of individuals (2).

Care Ethics Photo by Mary Ellen Mark • (2) Pettersen, T. 2008. Comprehending Care . United Kingdom: Lexington Books:23 Care Ethics • Care ethics appears most appropriate to intimate relations, but its advocates seek to extend it to communities, institutions and nation states Care ethics is intended to guide conduct and to provide an aspirational ideal of the virtuous life Photo by geek2nurse Affective and Cognitive Care Caring has both affective and cognitive dimensions. • Cognition is necessary to understand the other’s needs, feelings and circumstances.

But caring also involves a range of feelings associated with empathy, sympathy, compassion, and love. Care Ethics and Normative Ethics • Care ethics provides normative guidance, but it does not prescribe specific actions by applying a set of abstract principles, rights and rules (found in normative ethics). • With universalizing principles (normative ethics), the public domain has superiority over private-personal domains. . Emotion and Understanding • In caring, moral thoughts are not separated from feelings as they are in many Western ethical philosophies from Plato to Kant.

• Gilligan challenges the idea that moral reasoning should be divorced from feelings and contexts. Emotion and Understanding • Knowledge is gained through human connection to others when we try to take the perspectives of others in deciding morality and justice. Photo by rexquisite Co-Feeling and Empathy • Caring involves understanding another’s feelings that seeks to go beyond mere understanding (empathy) to actually feeling what others experience. • Petersen defines this as co-feeling which is more than empathy. • Caring originates from the experience of caring for others.

• In caring for particular individuals, we learn to recognize the needs and vulnerabilities of human others everywhere; and to avoid harming them. Co-feeling and Empathy Co-feeling in care ethics comes from experiencing the complexities of a particular individual’s situation. A deep, detailed appreciation for the lives of others enriches our own self-understanding. Photo by Neys • Co-feeling is one ability in mature care; how one should act and what actions constitute care. • Caring involves participating in another’s feelings on his/her terms with an attitude of engagement, not of disinterested observation or judgment.

• It is an act of affective imagination. Photo by Quinn Anya Care Ethics and Moral Autonomy • For care ethics, moral autonomy is construed as relational autonomy. • In contrast with Kant’s isolated individual who rationally formulates universal principles by himself or herself, the relational autonomous agent takes account of her interdependence with others. • Gilligan promotes a more nuanced and complex concept of moral autonomy with space for holding self-determination with consideration, reason with emotion, and independency with connectedness.

Friend Wheel by Unlisted Sightings • Care ethics replaces the detached respect for the autonomous decisions of others that is the legacy of principle-based ethics with attentiveness to the plight, special needs, and vulnerabilities of individuals, who might need help is deciding what to do • Tensions continue to exist within care ethics between contextual sensitivity in moral decisionmaking and respect for principles that direct us to treat people equally, with justice and respect for autonomous choices.

Justice and Moral Conflicts – Care Ethics • Moral conflicts are still those that involve individuals with differing philosophies. They involve loyalty conflicts or divergent responsibilities and interests for individual professionals. Agents have different ideas of what is ethically relevant. Photo by xeeliz Steps to Convergence on Ethics of Care and Principle-based Ethics • What actions are right or wrong according to some relevant norms or principles, fairness in particular.

What is the effect of these principles on those involved – will they hurt individuals? • Care ethics questions the over-reliance on principles and rules in ethics. • Are we choosing to be detached and numb to feeling the impacts of the principle of justice on individuals and our relationship to them? Photo by Svenska Cellulosa Aktibolaget A THIRD WAY • Care ethics encourages the moral agent to balance respect for individual autonomy with caring for individuals in relationships.

• A balance between relations and autonomy, between connection and integrity would create convergence of principles with care. • An intermediate position between too much and too little would be needed. A THIRD WAY • Care ethics requires morally mature agents to weight and balance principles with caring for individuals. • In these moral conflicts, “listening” to others, is essential to decision-making. • Interdependent leadership and communication may open up new possibilities – a third way. .

References Beauchamp T. and J. Childress. 2009. Principles of Biomedical Ethics, New York: Oxford University Press, 6th ed Gilligan, Carol 1977, “Concepts of the Self and of Morality” Harvard Educational Review: 481-517 Repr. 1986 as “A Different Voice”, In Pearsall, Women and Values: 309-339 Munson, R. 2004. Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics, 8th Ed Australia ; Belmont, CA : Thomson/Wadsworth, Pettersen’s T. 2008. , Comprehending Care . United Kingdom: Lexington Books:

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Ethics of care. (2016, Nov 07). Retrieved from

Ethics of care

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