Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

By Sally E. Talbot | Go to book overview

of universalisation, abstraction, and impartiality as opposed to particularity, concreteness, and partiality. Such argumentation fails to move outside the essentially dichotomous structure of Enlightenment thought. As Hekman points out, such a failure dogs many twentieth century attempts to disrupt the intellectual hegemony of Enlightenment epistemology, both in the social sciences and in feminist theory. 78

A more interesting way of proceeding, I think, is suggested by the realisation that liberal ethics not only (by its own admission) fails to address relations that are not public and formal but also gives a less than adequate account of these public, formal encounters. I have, at least in part, accounted for this failure by pointing out that liberal ethics is less concerned with what particular people do or how concrete moral dilemmas are faced up to, than with exploring the ethical potentialities of a form of rationality that celebrates the human capacity to think in an abstract, universal, and impartial way. It seems to me that these ideas resonate with each other in a convincing way and form a solid basis of criticism from which to explore the possibility of transforming both care and reason.


NOTES
1.
Gilligan, In a Different Voice, 29, talks of "seeing a world comprised of relationships rather than of people standing alone."
2.
See, for example, Card, "'The Feistiness of Feminism,'" and Cole and Coultrap- McQuin , "'Toward a Feminist Conception of Moral Life", and the collections of essays that these papers preface. I draw particular attention to these sources because both Card and Cole and Coultrap-McQuin note the emphases in feminist ethics on acknowledging the diversity of moral perspectives and revealing the range of oppressions that have removed those perspectives from mainstream accounts of moral philosophy. More generally, both Gilligan, In a Different Voice, and Noddings, Caring, take the exclusivity of traditional liberal moral theories as a starting point in their accounts of caring.
3.
The collections of essays edited by Card, Feminist Ethics, and by Cole and Coultrap-McQuin, Explorations in Feminist Ethics, indicate the diversity of these approaches, as do the anthologies edited by Kittay and Meyers, Women and Moral Theory, and by Larrabee, An Ethic of Care, which are more specifically oriented around the ethic of care. See also Walker summary, "'Moral Understandings,'"165, of the different strands in the conversation between those who believe that "feminist ethics clarifies the moral legitimacy and necessity of the kinds of social, political, and personal changes that feminism demands in order to end male domination" and those who hold that the objective of feminist ethics is to ensure that "the moral perceptions, self-images, and senses of moral value and responsibility of women have been represented or restored."
4.
The problematisation of these associations is a common theme among feminist moral philosophers. In addition to the general sources cited in my Introduction (notes 16 and 22), see Addelson, Impure Thoughts and Moral Passages; Manning, Speaking from the Heart. For a specifically Aristotelian challenge to the assumptions about autonomy and impartiality made in the liberal moral tradition, see Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness.
5.
The other ingredient is goodwill.
6.
For an account of Kant's response to Constant, see Sullivan, Immanuel Kant's Moral Theory, 173-177. The question about how much of a problem Kant's "exceptionless rules" ( Sullivan, 351, note 30) are is the subject of controversy among

-29-

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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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