Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

By Sally E. Talbot | Go to book overview

Preface

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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Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Philosophy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents VII
  • Preface IX
  • Acknowledgements XI
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • Chapter 1 People Standing Alone: A Critique of Liberal Moral Theory 9
  • Notes 29
  • Chapter 2 a Necessary Corrective? Responses That Fill the Gaps 37
  • Notes 57
  • Chapter 3 Theorising Connection as Primary: Understandings of Selves-In-Relation 63
  • Notes 85
  • Chapter 4 Seeing Together: Care as Disposition 91
  • Notes 113
  • Chapter 5 Understanding Partiality: Problematising Conceptions of Knowledge and Knowing 121
  • Notes 149
  • Chapter 6 Partial Reason: the Epistemological Imperatives of Partiality 157
  • Notes 183
  • Chapter 7 Care: the Ethical Imperatives of Partiality 187
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 231
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