Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

By Sally E. Talbot | Go to book overview

other knowers and of the subject and the object of knowledge and with the assumption that the establishment of a common language is an effective way to ensure the possibility of sustaining shared belief systems, mutual understandings, and intersubjective agreements. Both ethically and epistemologically, then, the emphasis is placed on the connections between the self and what is known or understood rather than on the connections between selves. To the extent that liberal ethics and epistemology do establish connections between selves, the basis of these connections is that individual selves find themselves seeing, knowing, or understanding the same things. The act of seeing, knowing, or understanding, however, remains a solitary act. This is the concept of connection endorsed by both the passive and the projective versions of empathy.

I have said that both empathy as projection and empathy as passive accommodation move to convert difference into sameness. Both versions of empathy are problematic in that neither ascribes a relational content to empathetic connection. What I mean is that both versions of empathy construct relation as involving a loss of self: either the loss of the empathising self or the loss of the self who is empathised with. My suggestions are that the accounts of relation that emerge from these versions of empathy do not entail any significant revision of the ideals of autonomy and impartiality and do not constitute the basis of an account of caring relation. My point is not that the empathetic response necessarily establishes such an impoverished account of relation. The concept of seeing together that I develop in this discussion involves a sense in which I can say that I know just how you feel, as well as a sense in which that saying is consistent with there being degrees of overlap or commensurabilities between your knowing and mine, your feeling and mine. However, seeing together, as I begin to show in Chapter 3, involves concepts of relation that cannot be sustained by either of the versions of empathy I have considered here. Neither version challenges the idea that selves are essentially constituted as separate, autonomous, and impartial. Both present concepts of relation that reflect or are consistent with an emphasis on autonomy, impartiality, and separation.

When relation is understood to be connecting selves who are essentially separate, relatedness is a state in which selves are lost rather than constituted. When care is seen as a supplement or complement to approaches that emphasise autonomy and impartiality, caring is always and already subordinate to those approaches. What I establish in the following chapters, however, is that questions about relation and about care can be placed in another framework of moral understandings. When this framework does not privilege separation, autonomy, and impartiality, the possibility arises of transforming both ethics and epistemology.


NOTES
1.
Amy is one of Gilligan subjects in In a Different Voice.
2.
Noddings, Caring, 40, passim.
3.
Gilligan, In a Different Voice, 22-23.

-57-

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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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