Journal of Value Inquiry 32 (4):451-463 (1998)

The association of women with caring dispositions and thinking has become a persistent theme in recent feminist writing. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is the impetus that has been provided by the empirical work of Carol Gilligan on women’s moral development. The fact that this association is not merely an ideologically or philosophically postulated one, but is argued for on empirical grounds, tends to add to its credibility. Another reason for the resilience of the association is the existence of an increasingly prominent theme in feminist thought and action that focuses on the importance of women’s difference from men, both as a fact and as a goal. Within this theme, there are various views on what the relevant differences are between women and men, and why the differences ought to be emphasized and properly respected. Women’s caring, as will be seen, turns out to have a firm presence in all of these views, and as a result, many women argue that caring should form the basis of a distinctive feminist ethic. On these views, women’s approaches to understanding moral situations, defining selfconceptions, choosing goals and roles, and guiding behaviour, should all be informed by and based upon dispositions of caring. However, if this idea of a feminist ethic of care is to be plausible, it will need to be reconciled with another strong theme in feminism, according to which in fundamental moral respects women ought not be considered or treated differently from men. We will examine the standing of a feminist ethic of care in the context of this tension between the difference theme and the sameness theme in feminism. The discussion begins by re-characterizing the justice and care debate in terms of impartialist and partialist ethical perspectives, and it then goes on to indicate the various ways in which women’s presumed disposition to caring and partialism finds prominence within the difference theme. The central focus of the discussion, however, will be the question of how to reconcile the conflict that exists between impartialist, justice-based moral thinking, and a partialist, caring approach to morality..
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DOI 10.1023/A:1004327810964
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References found in this work BETA

What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?Annette Baier - 1997 - In Roger Crisp & Michael Slote (eds.), Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press.
The Meshing of Care and Justice.Virginia Held - 1995 - Hypatia 10 (2):128 - 132.
Remarks on the Sexual Politics of Reason.Sara Ruddick - 1987 - In Eva Feder Kittay & Diana T. Meyers (eds.), Women and Moral Theory. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 237--60.

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Justice and the Possibility of Good Moralism in Bioethics.Matti Häyry - 2019 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 28 (2):236-263.

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