by their prescribing for women allegedly femininevirtues such as obedience, silence, and faithfulness.Some feminists charge that many contemporaryeth-ical discussions continue the tendency to regardwomen as instrumental to male-dominated
, such as the
or the state; in debateson abortion, for instance, the pregnant woman maybe portrayed as little more than a container or en-vironment for the fetus, while much discussion of reproductive technology has assumed that infertilityis a problem only for heterosexual married women,
women deﬁned in relationship to men.
Neglect of “women’s issues.”
Issues of specialconcern to women are said to have been ignored bymodern moral philosophers, who have tended toportray the domestic realm as an arena outside theeconomy and beyond justice, private in the sense of being beyond the scope of legitimate political regu-lation. Within the modern liberal tradition, the pub-lic domainisconceivedasproperlyregulatedbyuni-versal principles of right whereas the private is adomaininwhichvaryinggoodsmayproperlybepur-sued. Even philosophers like Aristotle or H
(1770–1831), who give some ethical importance tothedomesticrealm,havetendedtoportraythehomeas an arena in which the most fully human excel-lences cannot be realized. Feminist philosophersbe-gan early to criticize this conceptual bifurcation of social life. They pointed out that the home was pre-cisely that realm to whichwomenhadbeenconﬁnedhistorically, and that it had become symbolically as-sociated with the feminine, despite the fact thatheads of households were paradigmatically male.They argued that the philosophical devaluation of the domestic realm made it impossible to raiseques-tions about the justice of the domestic division of labor,becauseitobscuredthefar-reachingsocialsig-niﬁcance and creativity of women’s work in thehome,andconcealed,evenlegitimated,thedomesticabuse of women and girls.
Denial of women’s moral agency.
Women’smoral agency is said to have often been denied, notsimply by excluding women from moral debate orignoring their contributions,butthroughphilosoph-ical claims to the effect that women lack moral rea-son. Such claims were made originally by Aristotle,but they have been elaborated and reﬁned by mod-ern theoristssuchasRousseau,K
(1724–1804),Hegel, and Freud (1856–1939).
Depreciation of “feminine” values.
Westernmoral theory is said to embody values thatare“mas-culine,”insofarastheyareculturallyassociatedwithmen. Such associations may be empirical, norma-tive, or symbolic. For instance, Western ethics is al-leged to prioritize the supposedly masculine valuesof independence, autonomy,intellect,will,wariness,hierarchy, domination, culture, transcendence, prod-uct, asceticism, war, and death over the supposedlyfeminine values of interdependence, community,connection,sharing,
,absenceofhierarchy,nature,immanence,process,joy,peace,and life. Claims like this are common in both pop-ular and academic feminist writings on ethics.
Devaluation of women’s moral experience.
Fi-nally, some feminists also charge that prevailing Western conceptualizations of the nature of moral-ity, moral problems, and
aremasculine insofar as they too are associated withmen, rather than women, in associations that againmay be empirical, symbolic, or normative. For in-stance, feminists have accused modernmoraltheoryof being excessively preoccupied with rules, ob-sessed with impartiality, and exclusivelyfocussedondiscrete deeds. In addition, feminists have chargedmodern moral theory with taking the contractastheparadigmatic moral relation and construing moralrationality so narrowly as to exclude emotions of as-sessment, sometimes called moral emotions. Allthese characteristics have been asserted to be mas-culine in some sense. A feminine (not feminist) ap-proach to ethics, by contrast, has been supposed toavoid assuming that individuals ordinarily are free,equal, and independent; to take more account ofthespeciﬁcities of particular contexts; and to be morelikely to resolve moral dilemmas by relying on em-pathic feeling rather than by appealing to rules.Not all feminists endorse all of the above clustersof criticisms—and even where they agree with thegeneral statement, they may well disagree over itsapplicability in the case of speciﬁc philosophers ordebates. Despite differences of relative detail, femi-nists tend generally to agree on the ﬁrst three clus-ters of criticisms, whose correction seems not onlyattainable in principle within the framework of En-lightenment moral theory but even to be requiredbythat framework. However, they disagree sharply onthelasttwoclustersofcriticisms,especiallytheﬁfth,which obviously contains clear parallelswithanum-ber of nonfeminist criticisms ofEnlightenmentethicsmade by proponents of, for example,