Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

Synopsis

Traditionally the ethic of care has been associated with women while the ethic of justice has been associated with men. In recent years some feminist philosophers have turned their energies to developing theories of care and to exploring the epistemological assumptions on which the ethic of care is based. This volume proposes an original theory of care, building on insights of both feminist and non-feminist critics of liberal moral theory, gleaning ideas from feminist ethics and epistemologies, and stimulated by the writings of post-colonial feminists. The author shows that a number of ethical and epistemological imperatives can be defined through the philosophical elaboration of an ethic of care and the endeavor to know and to care well.

Excerpt

Too many versions of the ethic of care miss what I consider to be the crucial insight of the original work of both Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings: that the concrete, everyday response of care provides the grounds for a radical critique of prevailing liberal moral theory and for a transformed understanding of both ethics and reason. Liberal moral theory, I argue, explores the ethical potential of a form of rationality that celebrates the capacity to think in an abstract, universal, and impartial way. The ethic of care, like liberal ethics based on duty, utility, and contract, is also grounded in a set of epistemological assumptions. My assertion is, however, that the epistemological assumptions grounding care are not those privileging abstraction, universality, and impartiality. Liberal moral theory insists on the notion of truth as a universal and unitary regulatory ideal, on the autonomy of separate knowing individuals, and on the establishment of a common language. The moral understandings of care, by contrast, locate truth in the elaboration of the particular contexts in which we function as knowers, identify knowers as selves-in-relation, and seek out particular shared interests as the basis of a commonality in which to see together.

The moral understandings of care entail a radical critique of the ethical and epistemological axioms of liberalism. From this critique, I draw an account of the ethic of care that both informs and is informed by partial reason. Although the sufficient conditions for caring are not quantifiable, I show that a number of ethical and epistemological imperatives can be drawn out of the endeavour to know and to care well. These imperatives suggest that creating and sustaining shared belief systems, mutual understandings, and intersubjective agreements might be understood as the processes of selves-in-relation, for whom neither ethics nor epistemology is immutable. Drawing insights from feminist and nonfeminist critics of liberal moral theory, from feminist moral theorists and . . .

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