Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

By Nel Noddings | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

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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Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface to the 2013 Edition xiii
  • Preface to the 2003 Edition xxi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Why Care about Caring? 7
  • 2 - The One-Caring 30
  • 3 - The Cared-for 59
  • 4 - An Ethic of Caring 79
  • 5 - Construction of the Ideal 104
  • 6 - Enhancing the Ideal- Joy 132
  • 7 - Caring for Animals, Plants, Things and Ideas 148
  • 8 - Moral Education 171
  • Afterword 203
  • Notes 209
  • Select Bibliography 219
  • Index 223
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