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Ethics of care

The ethics of care is a normative ethical theory; that is, a theory about what makes actions right or wrong. It is one of a cluster of normative ethical theories that were developed by feminists in the second half of the twentieth century. While consequentialist and deontological ethical theories emphasize universal standards and impartiality, ethics of care emphasize the importance of relationships. The basic beliefs of the theory are: 1. All individuals are interdependent for achieving their interests 2. Those particularly vulnerable to our choices and their outcomes deserve extra consideration to be measured according to 1. the level of their vulnerability to one's choices 2. the level of their affectedness by one's choices and no one else's 3. It is necessary to attend to the contextual details of the situation in order to safeguard and promote the actual specific interests of those involved [edit]Historical


One of the founders of the ethics of care was American ethicist and psychologist Carol Gilligan. Gilligan was a student of developmental psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg and developed her moral theory in contrast to her mentor's theory of stages of moral development. This concept of human maturity measures, and is used to assess progress along the following stages:[1] Stage Goal

Stage 1: Obedience to authority Pre-conventional Stage 2: Nice behavior in exchange for future favors Stage 3: Live up to others' expectations Conventional Stage 4: Follow rules to maintain social order Stage 5: Adhere to social contract when it is valid Post-conventional Stage 6: Personal moral system based on abstract principles

Gilligan advanced the view that this model must be wrong. Measuring progress by it resulted in boys being found to be more morally mature than girls, and this held for adult men and women as well. This was not an objective scale of moral development, Gilligan

argued. It displayed a particularly masculine perspective on morality, founded on justice and abstract duties or obligations. She also stated that Kohlberg's founding study consisted of largely male participants.[2] Gilligan offered a difference feminist perspective: men and women have tendencies to view morality in different terms, with women emphasizing empathy and compassion over the notions of morality that are privileged by Kohlberg's scale.[3] [edit]Comparing

ethics of care with traditional ethical

Ethics of care contrasts with more well-known ethical views, such as consequentialist theories (e.g. utilitarianism) and deontological theories (e.g. Kantian ethics). This sort of outlook is what feminist critics call a 'justice view' of morality. A morality of care rests on the understanding of relationships as a response to another in their terms. [edit]Ethics

of care and feminist ethics

While some feminists have criticized care-based ethics for reinforcing traditional stereotypes of a good woman[4] others have embraced parts of this paradigm under the theoretical concept of care-focused feminism.[5] Care-focused feminism is a branch of feminist thought, informed primarily by ethics of care as developed by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings.[6] This body of theory is critical of how caring is socially engendered to women and consequently devalued. Carefocused feminists regard womens capacity for care as a human strength[7] which can and should be taught to and expected of men as well as women. Noddings proposes that ethical caring has the potential to be a more concrete evaluative model of moral dilemma, than an ethic of justice.[8] Noddings care-focused feminism requires practical application of relational ethics, predicated on an ethic of care.[9] Ethics of care is also a basis for care-focused feminist theorizing on maternal ethics. Critical of how society engenders caring labor, theorists Sara Ruddick, Virginia Held, and Eva Feder Kittay suggest caring should be performed and care givers valued in both public and private spheres.[10] Their theories recognize caring as an ethically relevant issue.[11] This proposed paradigm shift in ethics encourages that an ethic of caring be the social responsibility of both men and women.