Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Synopsis

With numerous examples to supplement her rich theoretical discussion, Nel Noddings builds a compelling philosophical argument for an ethics based on natural caring, as in the care of a mother for her child.

In Caring --now updated with a new preface and afterword reflecting on the ongoing relevance of the subject matter--the author provides a wide-ranging consideration of whether organizations, which operate at a remove from the caring relationship, can truly be called ethical. She discusses the extent to which we may truly care for plants, animals, or ideas. Finally, she proposes a realignment of education to encourage and reward not just rationality and trained intelligence, but also enhanced sensitivity in moral matters.

Excerpt

Ethies, the philosophical study of morality, has concentrated for the most part on moral reasoning. Much current work, for example, focuses on the status of moral predicates and, in education, the dominant model presents a hierarchical picture of moral reasoning. This emphasis gives ethics a contemporary, mathematical appearance, but it also moves discussion beyond the sphere of actual human activity and the feeling that pervades such activity. Even though careful philosophers have recognized the difference between “pure” or logical reason and “practical” or moral reason, ethical argumentation has frequently proceeded as if it were governed by the logical necessity characteristic of geometry. It has concentrated on the establishment of principles and that which can be logically derived from them. One might say that ethics has been discussed largely in the language of the father: in principles and propositions, in terms such as justification, fairness, justice. The mother’s voice has been silent. Human caring and the memory of caring and being cared for, which I shall argue form the foundation of ethical response, have not received attention except as outcomes of ethical behavior. One is tempted to say that ethics has so far been guided by Logos, the masculine spirit, whereas the more natural and, perhaps, stronger approach would be through Eros, the feminine spirit. I hesitate to give way to this temptation, in part because the terms carry with them a Jungian baggage that I am unwilling to claim in its totality. In one sense, “Eros” does capture the flavor and spirit of what I am attempting here; the notion of psychic relatedness lies at the heart of the ethic I shall propose. In another sense, however, even “Eros” is masculine in its roots and fails to capture the receptive rationality of caring that is characteristic of the feminine approach.

When we look clear-eyed at the world today, we see it wracked with fighting, killing, vandalism, and psychic pain of all sorts. One of the saddest features of this picture of violence is that the deeds are so often done in the name of principle. When we establish a principle forbidding kill-

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