Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

By Sally E. Talbot | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Theorising Connection as Primary: Understandings of Selves-in-Relation

In this chapter I consider some ethical and epistemological possibilities that arise when philosophical emphasis is shifted from individuals who are autonomous and impartial toward individuals constituted as selves-in-relation. 1 As I indicated at the end of Chapter 2, my belief is that when concepts of relation are placed in a framework of moral understandings where autonomy, impartiality, and separation are not privileged, the possibility arises of challenging liberal ethics and the set of epistemological assumptions in which liberal moral philosophy is grounded.

Importantly, this challenge to liberal thinking does not only contest the spaces left vacant by liberal accounts. Neither does it simply reverse the priorities and privilegings of liberal moral theory. Rather, it contests that theory on its own ground, starting with the assertion that a more adequate account of formal, public encounters becomes available when deep background assumptions constitute individuals as selves-in-relation rather than as autonomous, impartial, and separate. 2

This redescription of encounters in the public sphere is one of several closely connected, but distinct, ways in which challenging the axioms of liberal moral theory is linked with presumptions about selves-in-relation. Other aspects of this challenge involve transforming the moral sphere and elaborating the concept of selves-in-relation. This interrogative approach also questions the requirement for either ethics or reason to function as the "glue" that connects individuals who are not otherwise connected and establishes care as an ethic rather than a nonmoral response that only complements or supplements liberal moral responses. These are the themes around which I have woven the ideas in the second half of this book. Various concepts of relation are deeply embedded in these themes. Here I am concerned less with the direct explication of relation in the realm of metaphysics and more with the way ethics and epistemology might

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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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