The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality

The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality

The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality

The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality

Synopsis

In this provocative new book, renowned educator and philosopher Nel Noddings extends her influential work on the ethics of care toward a compelling objective--global peace and justice. She asks: If we celebrate the success of women becoming more like men in professional life, should we not simultaneously hope that men become more like women--in caring for others, rejecting violence, and valuing the work of caring both publicly and personally? Drawing on current work on evolution, and bringing concrete examples from women's lived experience to make a strong case for her position, Noddings answers this question by locating one source of morality in maternal instinct. She traces the development of the maternal instinct to natural caring and ethical caring, offering a preliminary sketch of what a care-driven concept of justice might look like. Finally, to advance the cause of caring, peace, and women's advancement, Noddings urges women to abandon institutional, patriarchal religion and to seek their own paths to spirituality.

Excerpt

Much work is being done today on the evolution of morality. Anthropologists, psychologists, evolution scientists, and philosophers are looking for the roots of altruism, empathy, solidarity, and cooperation. Surprisingly, in seeking these roots, scholars rarely look at female experience. It may well be that one wide and increasingly influential approach to moral life—care ethics— can be traced to maternal instinct.

I will not argue that an ethic of care evolves in a blindly biological way. Thinking, experimenting, reflecting, analyzing, and conceptualizing are all involved in developing an ethic. As Virginia Held has argued, when we consider naturalizing morality, we should not lose sight of ourselves as moral subjects—as persons who think and make choices, some of which challenge the way we are as biological creatures. Cognition and the power to evaluate have also evolved, and we have the ability to reflect on our own nature. The ethic of care can be described as naturalistic in its rejection of supernaturalism and its recognition that . . .

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