Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

By Nel Noddings | Go to book overview

AFTERWORD

There is still much work to be done on care ethics. In this brief afterword, I will suggest two especially important and challenging questions to address. One of the most important tasks facing care theorists (and other moral philosophers) is a thorough analysis of empathy. Lawrence Blum pointed out this need almost two decades ago when he suggested that “sympathy and empathy are in a sense not unitary phenomena but, rather, collectivities of at least somewhat distinct sensitivities to different aspects of other people’s well-being.”1 In addition to describing these sensitivities, we must consider what arouses them, what enervates them, and what sustains them to the level of response. I cannot undertake that task here, but I will raise a few points that might direct such work.

First, it seems odd that so many writers who discuss empathy fail to mention attention. Surely attention plays a central role in arousing empathy, yet discussion of it is confined largely to feminist philosophy. Simone Weil (as I note in my 2013 preface) highlighted attention with her basic moral-receptive question to the other: What are you going through?2 Iris Murdoch then built on this, writing: “I have used the word ‘attention’, which I borrow from Simone Weil, to express the idea of a just and loving gaze directed upon an individual reality.”3 What prompts this “just and loving gaze”? I have suggested that it emerges and grows stronger over years of practice in caring, but more should be said about the feelings and cognitive reflections that accompany it. Sara Ruddick, referring to both Weil and Murdoch, advances the idea in connection with maternal thinking: “The concept ‘attentive love,’ which knits together maternal thinking, designates a cognitive capacity—attention—and a virtue— love.”4 In just these few lines from Weil, Murdoch, and Ruddick, we get a sense of the complexity of the analytic task awaiting us.

If we turn to current work on empathy, we encounter—for the most part— very different language. Frans de Waal, for example, seeking the biological roots of empathy, confirms the occurrence of empathy in nonhuman animals. He also notes that, universally, women are more empathic than men, but he says noth-

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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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